A Massachusetts mother of three, whose husband is awaiting sentencing in an art fraud case for selling a pair of phony Warhols to an unsuspecting buyer, vanished on New Year’s Day without a trace, cops said Friday.
Ana Walshe, 39, lives with her family in Cohasset, Massachusetts, and commutes weekly to Washington, D.C., where she works as a property manager, according to Cohasset Police Chief William Quigley. She left home around 4 a.m. on Jan. 1, according to Quigley, who said her husband, Brian, was asleep at the time. (He remains under home confinement in the Warhol case.) Walshe had ordered a car from a rideshare service to take her to Boston’s Logan Airport for her flight, Quigley said.
Walshe had been scheduled to head back to D.C. on Jan. 3, but bumped up her plan by two days “to handle some type of emergency at one of the properties that she manages,” Quigley said at a press conference on Friday, noting that Walshe departed with her luggage, personal belongings, and cellphone, which has been off since Jan. 1.
There is no record of Walshe getting on a plane that day—or since. Police have also been unable to confirm whether Walshe even made it to the airport, or if she got into a rideshare vehicle. But an unnamed family member—the Walshes have three sons between the ages of 2 and 6—confirmed she did indeed walk out of the house on the day she is believed to have disappeared, according to Quigley.
On Jan. 4, Brian Walshe called police to report his wife missing. Her employer, real estate company Tishman Speyer, simultaneously contacted authorities to say Ana Walshe, who cops say speaks with an Eastern European accent, had disappeared.
At Friday’s press conference, Quigley acknowledged Brian Walshe’s “legal history,” without further explanation, but said the incident is “not believed to have any relation to this case.”
Brian “has been fully cooperative,” as has Tishman’s security department, according to Quigley. The couple own a $1.4 million townhouse in the Friendship Heights section of Washington, D.C., which has been searched by police, who found the pair’s car in the driveway but “no signs of her there,” Quigley said. Ana Walshe’s debit and credit cards have not been used since she left on Jan. 1, and her “digital footprint” has also been nonexistent, he told reporters.
As for why Walshe wasn’t reported missing for several days, Quigley explained that she worked long hours and that it is “not abnormal” for her to “not contact home right away.” Detectives are treating the case as a missing persons investigation, although they have no evidence of foul play, according to Quigley. Perhaps she “just needed a break,” since “life is challenging sometimes… sometimes life gets chaotic,” Quigley said. If that is indeed so, he continued, “we just need a call from her or someone who has talked to her.”
Brian Walshe was unable to be reached for comment on Friday.
The charges against Brian Walshe, who “once bought every ounce of [Boston restaurant Deuxave’s] white truffles and every wine from his birth year during dinner,” according to The Boston Globe, stem from the 2016 sale of two canvases from Andy Warhol’s Shadows series.
After convincing a college pal he could get a good price for the (genuine) works, Walshe put them up for sale for $80,000 via his wife’s eBay account, court records show. But while he posted photos of the real thing, what he delivered to the purchaser, after consummating the deal outside the eBay platform, were phony, Walshe admitted in court last year.
Walshe ultimately sold the legit Shadow paintings and “provided information” to the government that allowed them to “track the paintings to where they are today,” and “make a decision with respect to forfeiture,” according to a memo submitted to the court by defense lawyers.
The charges against Walshe carry a maximum combined sentence of up to 50 years and a $1 million fine. The government was set to agree to a sentence that included no jail time at all, prosecutors said in a June 2022 court filing. However, after Walshe allegedly embezzled funds from his late father’s estate while out on bail in the Warhol case, they are now seeking a sentence of 30 months in federal prison.
“We do not have a sentencing date as of yet,” defense attorney Tracy Miner told The Daily Beast on Friday.
The Warhol situation in fact also involved Ana Walshe, according to an FBI affidavit filed in 2018 that sought permission from a federal judge to search her email accounts, phone, and person, along with her residence.
Although she was not ultimately prosecuted for her alleged role in the fraud, the affidavit, which identifies her by her previous last name, says she “participated in the sale of the paintings,” accusing her of having communicated with the purchaser who got duped and handling the phony artwork prior to the sale. She was also named in a lawsuit brought by the buyer of the counterfeit works, L.A. gallery owner and hip-hop impresario Ron Rivlin. (Rivlin did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Friday.)
Following a long, drawn-out process in court, Brian Walshe pleaded guilty in 2021 to wire fraud, interstate transportation for a scheme to defraud, possession of converted goods, and engaging in an unlawful monetary transaction. In June, as he awaited sentencing, the judge overseeing the case accused Walshe—whose late father had disinherited him before his death in 2018, according to court filings—of illegally helping himself to more than $100,000 in cash, paintings by Miró and Dalí, pottery and art glass, and “even a car” belonging to his dad’s estate, which he then sold off.
One filing includes a sworn affidavit from Brian Walshe’s cousin, who attested that it was “common knowledge among… friends and family members” that Brian “absconded with almost $1 million from [his father] in prior years.”
On the other side of the coin, Ana Walshe and members of her family over the summer sent letters to the judge, praising Brian for taking care of his mother and mother-in-law, who suffered a brain hemorrhage in December 2021.
“During my mother’s illness and beyond, Brian continued to be in contribution and focus on charity work, serve as a coach within his transformational leadership academy, continue to take care of his ailing elderly mother and be there for his sons day in and day out,” Ana wrote in one.
Her own recent online activity did not appear ominous in any way. Someone with a screen name that matches Walshe’s email address placed a bid on a low-mileage 2008 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet on Dec. 11, following bids on two similar models, as well as a 2016 Jaguar F-Type convertible, over the preceding three weeks. Ana’s final Instagram post before she disappeared, on Dec. 31, read: “Take the risk of optimism.”
Meanwhile, her friends and loved ones have themselves taken to social media in a desperate attempt to locate her.