Renton man pleads guilty to selling fake Chihulys

SEATTLE - The U.S. attorney's office says a Renton man who made $40,000 selling generic pieces of glasswork on the Internet as Chihuly artwork pleaded guilty Wednesday in Seattle.

Michael Little could get up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 4 in federal court for wire fraud.

The U.S. attorney's office says Little, 35, used forged papers to authenticate the art but an expert determined they were not the work of Dale Chihuly.

He was caught through a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation launched when an art buyer attempted to purchase Chihuly pieces to donate to Gonzaga University's Jundt Art Museum.

According to court documents, the buyer started by purchasing a small bowl from Little for $1,591 on eBay on Jan. 1, 2012. The same buyer reportedly met Little a number of additional times, purchasing more than 30 pieces for more than $30,000 total.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the pieces included forged Chihuly signatures, and Little provided fake certificates of authentication.

But, the buyer was unable to authenticate any of the pieces through an appraiser.

The appraiser's assessment was backed up by additional experts. In addition, the investigation found Little had used his eBay account to purchase numerous pieces of glass art and Chihuly reference materials from Hong Kong and China for as little as 99 cents, according to court documents.

According to the documents, Little also sold counterfeit pieces to two other individuals.