A federal grand jury indicted three people for selling counterfeit Clementine Hunter paintings.

William Toye, 78, and Beryl Ann Toye, 68, both of Baton Rouge, and 62-year-old Robert E. Lucky Jr. of New Orleans were named in a four-count indictment that charges all three defendants with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, acting U.S. Attorney Bill Flanagan announced Thursday.

Clementine Hunter was a black folk artist who lived in Natchitoches Parish and began painting in the late 1930s, continuing her work until a few days before her death on Jan. 1, 1988.

The indictment alleges that beginning sometime in 2000 and continuing until Sept. 30, 2009, the defendants conspired to defraud several collectors of Hunter’s paintings by misrepresenting the authenticity and origin of the paintings Lucky sold on behalf of the Toyes.

If convicted of conspiracy, the defendants face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both. Mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years, a $250,000 fine or both.    

All defendants have been ordered to appear for arraignment on March 17 at 10 a.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge James D. Kirk. The case was investigated by the FBI in Alexandria and is being prosecuted by the Western District U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Anyone with information concerning the investigation is encouraged to contact Special Agent Randolph J. Deaton at the FBI in Alexandria at 318-443-5097.

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