British art dealer Robert Newland, a onetime business partner of disgraced art dealer and convicted fraudster Inigo Philbrick, has pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his part in helping Philbrick swindle dealers and collectors out of $86 million. Newland entered the plea September 23 before US District Court Judge Sidney H. Stein in the southern District Court of New York after being extradited to the US earlier in the week, roughly seven months after being detained in the UK in connection with the crime. Philbrick this past May was sentenced by the same judge to seven years in jail. If Newland is convicted, he could face up to twenty years in prison.
Newland and Philbrick met in 2010 at London’s White Cube gallery, where Newland worked in the finance department and Philbrick was an intern. In 2013, Philbrick, with the help of White Cube’s owner, Jay Jopling, inaugurated his own secondary art dealership, Modern Collections (MC); the following year, he appointed Newland director of that company. Newland departed MC at the end of 2016, eventually spending about year working for New York-based gallery Hauser & Wirth. At the time of his February arrest, Newland was sales chief at Miami art and tech firm Superblue; the company fired him shortly thereafter.
Philbrick—who at the time of his own November 2021 guilty plea on wire fraud charges, famously told Stein he had done it “for the money, your honor”—enriched himself by selling more than 100 percent ownership of various artworks to multiple investors; selling or using works as collateral against loans without the knowledge of their co-owners; and using forged documents to artificially inflate the value of artworks. As part of Newland’s plea agreement, he will forfeit the $76,000 he gained through the fraud scheme along with works by Christopher Wool and Wade Guyton, and a desk by French designer Jean Prouvé desk. Newland is free on bond until his sentencing date, which has not yet been set; during that time, his travel is greatly restricted.