Playboy cons life on Londons drug-fuelled party scene before £65m swindle

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A British-based artist slapped with a potential 20-year sentence in an American prison has claimed the art industry in London is fuelled by illegal drugs and booze.

Inigo Philbrick, 34, was arrested in 2020 on suspicion of defrauding buyers out of more than £65million ($86million), with the artist since pleading guilty to the allegation.

Documents supplied by Philbrick's legal team claim that his substance abuse intensified after he entered London's art world in his 20s.

The court, which is due to sentence Philbrick next month on one charge of wire fraud, heard that the artist had a "reputation for hard drinking".

The documents submitted to court state that "he would begin drinking alcohol at lunch and continued to do so throughout the day, often using illegal drugs as well".

These documents also claimed that this was "how art deals are done".

The British artists Gilbert & George gave the court a character reference of Philbrick, who they described as "a very talented, extraordinary, charming, honest and decent young person."

Gilbert & George recounted meeting Philbrick when he was an intern at White Cube Gallery in South London in 2005, where he worked after moving from his hometown of Connecticut to study at Goldsmiths, University of London.

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Philbrick went on to run a gallery in Mayfair as well as Miami and has a daughter with Made in Chelsea alumni Victoria Baker-Harber.

The artist has been in custody in the US since June 2020 on an island in the South Pacific, and had disappeared after his transatlantic Ponzi scheme fell apart.

Philbrick had reportedly been selling the same artwork to different people, or selling individuals fractions of paintings.

He also took out over £15million ($20million) in loans on paintings he did not own.

The artist pleaded guilty at New York's southern district court to one count of wire fraud, with the offence carrying a maximum 20-year sentence.

His legal team say Philbrick agreed to turn over more than £65million in fraudulently obtained funds.

  • Drugs
  • London
  • Alcohol

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