Fraudster ex of MIC star claims London art world fuelled by drugs

Fraudster ex of Made in Chelsea star Victoria Baker-Harber claims he carried out £65million Ponzi scheme because of drink and drugs in London’s art world

  • Inigo Philbrick admitted to conning investors out of millions at New York hearing 
  • He sold the same artworks to different investors, sometimes at inflated prices
  • But Philbrick now says art deals in London are ‘fuelled by alcohol and drugs’
  • Court documents say his substance abuse intensified after entering art world
  • Philbrick is former partner of Made in Chelsea socialite Victoria Baker-Harber

The fraudster ex of Made in Chelsea star Victoria Baker-Harber claims he carried out a £65 million Ponzi scheme because of drink and drugs in London’s art world. 

Inigo Philbrick was described as a ‘serial swindler’ as he admitted to conning investors out of millions of pounds at a New York court hearing in November last year.

He was arrested by the FBI on the pacific island of Vanuatu following allegations he sold the same art works to different investors, sometimes at inflated prices, in order to get money to pay for others.  

In documents supplied to the court, Philbrick’s legal team have said his substance abuse, which intensified after entering London’s art scene, had contributed to his fraudulent offending.

The court heard that Philbrick, who had a baby with Ms Baker-Harber in November 2020, had a reputation for ‘hard drinking’, The Times reports.

Documents said he would ‘begin drinking alcohol at lunch’ and would continue ‘throughout the day’, as well as ‘often using illegal drugs’.

The court heard that this is ‘how art deals are done’.

Inigo Philbrick pictured with former partner Victoria Baker-Harber, of Made in Chelsea fame, whom he had a baby in November 2020

Made in Chelsea socialite Victoria Baker-Harber poses in a picture poster to her Instagram page 

Victoria pictured with Jamie Laing (right) having lunch during an episode of Made in Chelsea in 2017

Philbrick (pictured) admitted conning investors out of millions of pounds and faces a maximum jail sentence of 20 years

It comes after Jeffery Lichtman, Philbrick’s attorney, told the court in November that the art industry was ‘corrupt from top to bottom’ and there would be ‘many more cases like this if the art world were investigated thoroughly’. 

Renowned collaborative art duo Gilbert and George also provided a character reference, recalling how they met Philbrick when he was starting out as an intern at London’s White Cube Gallery in 2005.

In the reference, they described him as ‘a very talented, extraordinary, charming, honest and decent young person’.

Philbrick, born in Connecticut, rose to notoriety in the industry after moving to Britain to study at Goldsmiths, University of London, aged 23.

He is the son of Harry Philbrick, a respected former museum director, and Jane, a Harvard-educated writer and artist. 

Philbrick interned at the White Cube gallery in London before being made director of secondary market sales.

Three years later, he opened the Inigo Philbrick Gallery in Mayfair, before going on to open a site in Miami.

But when the his fraudulent activity was uncovered in November 2019, he failed to appear for court hearings in both cities and was eventually arrested by the FBI on the Pacific island of Vanuatu.

It was alleged he resold an artwork for £4.1m in 2019, only for one person to claim they held 100 per cent of it and another two 50 per cent each. 

The court earlier heard the lucrative scam financed his lavish ‘lifestyle’, with Philbrick appearing as an expert on art business conferences and his offices registered in Grosvenor Street, Mayfair. 

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: ‘Inigo Philbrick was a serial swindler who took advantage of the lack of transparency in the art market to defraud art collectors, investors, and lenders of more than $86 million to finance his art business and his lifestyle.’ 

Philbrick’s scams included the sale of a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat named Humidity, pictured above

The home of Philbrick’s registered offices in Grosvenor Street, Mayfair. The art dealer fraudulently lived a lavish lifestyle

Works involved in his scam included a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat named Humidity, a 2010 untitled painting by Christopher Wool and an untitled 2012 painting by Rudolf Stingel depicting Pablo Picasso.

He pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges at a New York’s Southern District Court in November and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment when he next appears in court in May. 

Mr Lichtman told the court: ‘It’s a sad day for Inigo, but he’s happy to put this behind him

‘The industry is corrupt from top to bottom. Inigo isn’t the cause here, he’s a symptom. I suspect many more cases like this would appear if the art world were investigated thoroughly.

‘While his actions were dishonest and criminal in nature, he’s part of an industry sick from top to bottom where this sort of behaviour is sadly commonplace.

‘That being said, he apologises to his victims and will do all that he can to make them whole.’

His legal team say he has agreed to turn over more than $86 million in fraudulently obtained funds and has provided information on ‘other frauds in the market’. 

The rise and fall of America’s biggest Ponzi conman Bernie Madoff

Fraudster Inigo Philbrick has been dubbed the ‘Mini Madoff of the art world’ after duping investors out of millions.

Bernie Madoff is the man behind the biggest and most devastating Ponzi scheme in history that robbed tens of thousands of victims worldwide of $65 billion.

He went from a high-flying Wall Street financier to living out his dying days in a North Carolina prison. 

For decades, Madoff – a former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market – enjoyed an image as a self-made financial guru whose good fortune defied market fluctuations.

By the 1980s, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities occupied three floors of a midtown Manhattan high-rise

He attracted a devoted legion of investment clients from Florida retirees to the rich and famous including director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and former New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon. 

However, it all came crashing down in 2008 after his investment advisory business was exposed as a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that had eradicated people’s fortunes – both rich and poor – and destroyed charities and foundations worldwide.

Madoff, behind what is believed to be the largest fraud in Wall Street’s history, became so hated he had to wear a bulletproof vest to court after admitting to his crimes.

He died in April earlier this year while serving a 150 year prison sentence at Butner Federal Correctional Complex.

The epic downfall from his financial fraud not only destroyed the lives of his 37,000 victims but also that of his own family, including his two sons who ended up turning their father over to the authorities.

One of his sons, Mark, killed himself on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest in 2010. Madoff’s other son, Andrew, died from cancer at age 48. His wife Ruth is still alive and has since vanished to Greenwich, Connecticut. 

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