Ferreira was arrested and sentenced to 21 years in Brazilian prison on charges of bank fraud in 2006 when his Banco Santos failed, leaving it more than $1 billion in debt. Brazilian authorities attempted to seize his sizeable art collection, but reportedly found over $30 million worth of art missing.
Since then, those pieces of art have been turning up in the US with false titles and vastly understated values. Among them is “Hannibal,” by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a 1982 painting estimated to be worth $8 million dollars. Ferreira allegedly smuggled it in with a customs declaration stating that the painting was worth $100, according to court documents. Several of the other paintings were sold to collectors, including Lichtenstein’s “Modern Painting with Yellow Interweave.” The Los Angeles, Calif. Ace Gallery sold it to the collector Seth Landsberg. The Lichtenstein was subsequently seized by US authorities in 2008 (see timeline below) after Sotheby’s put it up for auction.
Derek Fincham, a law professor who specializes in international art crime, says illegally selling art abroad is not uncommon.