A Niagara-on-the-Lake man was among eight people arrested after police seized more than 1,000 allegedly fraudulent artworks purported to have been painted by Norval Morrisseau.
Morrisseau was a prolific Indigenous artist from the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation, Ontario Provincial Police investigators noted.
Before his death in 2007, allegations began to emerge of people creating and selling art under his name and made in his distinctive Woodland School of Art style, police said.
Since 2020, the OPP and Thunder Bay police have been investigating the alleged production, distribution and sale of fake artwork falsely attributed to Morrisseau, police said.
The eight people arrested are facing a total of 40 charges.
Some of the paintings involved in the investigation were sold for tens of thousands of dollars to unsuspecting members of the public who had no reason to believe they weren’t genuine, police said.
“Norval Morrisseau was a prominent artist of the Thunder Bay region and to profit off of his name is not only unethical, but also illegal,” Thunder Bay police chief Dan Taddeo said in a news release.
Jeffrey Gordon Cowan, 47, of NOTL, faces charges of defrauding the public over $5,000, uttering forged document and four counts of fraud over $5,000, police said.
The other accused in the case are from Thunder Bay and Essa Township.