Massachusetts man charged in wife’s murder sentenced for fake Warhol art

A Massachusetts man charged with killing his wife was sentenced to a little more than three years in prison in an unrelated case in which he sold fake Andy Warhol paintings, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Brian Walshe, 49, was sentenced Tuesday to 37 months, or three years and one month, in what the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston called “a years-long, multi-faceted art fraud scheme.”

He pleaded guilty in 2021 to one count each of wire fraud, interstate transportation for a scheme to defraud and unlawful monetary transaction, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

counterfeit art painting (U.S. Attorney's Office District of Mass.)
counterfeit art painting (U.S. Attorney's Office District of Mass.)

Walshe in March 2023 was indicted on state counts that include first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the death of his wife Ana Walshe.

Ana Walshe was last seen New Year’s Day of 2023, reportedly at her home in Cohasset, police have said. A criminal complaint alleges that Brian Walshe killed his wife that day and at some point disinterred, removed or conveyed her body or remains.

Ana Walshe's body has never been found.

The art fraud case dealt with two abstract paintings that Walshe had purported to be authentic Warhol “Shadows," which he advertised on eBay in 2016. He eventually sold them, outside of the website, for $80,000, federal prosecutors said.

The real Warhol “Shadow” paintings belonged to the family of a fellow classmate of Walshe’s who he met when they both attended Carnegie Mellon University in the 1990s, according to court documents.

Walshe later told the former classmate that he could sell some of the paintings, and was given the two Warhol pieces along with some others, prosecutors said. Walshe never returned the Warhols, a criminal complaint says. Instead, he sold them to a gallery in 2011, according to prosecutors.

The pieces sold to the buyer Walshe met through eBay were not authentic, according to the the U.S. attorney’s office. The real Warhol “Shadows” paintings changed hands and have never been recovered, the office said.

Excerpts from Walshe’s diary at the time he was given the art by the former classmate show that he intended to defraud them all along, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

One of the entries refers to that victim’s family and reads “makes it easy for me to do them up,” and that the victim and his family “can eat it.” Another entry refers to selling the “Shadows” pieces and reads, “I will take all the $ then only a taste of everything else,” according the sentencing memorandum.

The 37-month prison sentence is what prosecutors asked the judge to impose, according to court documents. Walshe's attorneys sought time served and three years of supervised release.

Attorneys for Walshe in the federal case did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.

The state murder case is pending. Walshe has pleaded not guilty in that case. He is being held without bail.

Prosecutors have said that shortly before the time Walshe told investigators he had last seen his wife, searches on the Internet included "10 ways to dispose of a dead body if you really need to” and “how to stop a body from decomposing."

Searches the day after she was reported to have disappeared included “hacksaw best tool to dismember,” “can you be charged with murder without a body," those officials have said.

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