An art fraudster who created forged paintings potentially worth hundreds of thousands of pounds was jailed for two years today, police said.
The forgeries of William 'Billy' Mumford imitated a range of artists including Sayed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza, Maqbool Fida Husain, Welsh landscape painter Kyffin Williams, and English surrealist and modernist artist John Tunnard, Scotland Yard said.
It is believed they were released on to the UK market over a five-year period.
A Yard spokesman said that Operation Sketch, which was led by the Metropolitan Police's art and antiques unit, identified the scam in April 2009 after officers were contacted by a major London auction house which had identified an unusually high number of paintings offered for sale by Husain - sometimes called "the Picasso of India".
Hundreds of paintings and false instruments were found in the back bedroom and garage of Mumford's home in East Preston, West Sussex, including gallery stamps, ink pads and Victorian paper used to create a false provenance and dupe art experts and investors alike.
The 63-year-old admitted creating up to 1,000 forgeries and conspiracy to deceive potential buyers and launder the proceeds of the crimes.
He was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court having pleaded guilty on an earlier occasion to conspiracy to defraud.
A number of co-conspirators placed the works for sale on Ebay and at auction houses throughout the UK, receiving a 20% cut for their efforts, the Yard spokesman said.
Many of the paintings ended up abroad, some being sold on as genuine several times.
Detectives have located 40 of the paintings which were sold by the group, but believe there are potentially hundreds more in circulation. Inquiries revealed some had been sold on for up to £30,000.
Detective Constable Michelle Roycroft, formerly of the arts and antiques unit, said: "This complicated case highlights the pitfalls of buying works of art from online auction sites.
"These paintings, listed as 'unknown', came with elaborate false provenance that drew buyers into bidding for the items.
"This, together with William Mumford's execution of the paintings and the attention to detail - using forged gallery stamps and genuine Victorian paper to make labels - fooled hundreds of people both in the UK and worldwide with victims in France, USA and Canada."
Mumford's wife Daphne, 62, who admitted money laundering, was given a one year jail term, suspended for two years.
Martin Petrskovsky, 35, of Wick, Littlehampton, West Sussex, who admitted conspiracy to defraud, was jailed for 21 months.
His wife Karen Petrskovsky, 25, who also admitted conspiracy to defraud, was given a one year jail term, suspended for two years.
Anthony Resse, 24, of Littlehampton, West Sussex, who admitted conspiracy to defraud, was jailed for a year, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 200 hours' unpaid work.
Paul Shepherd, 41, of Worthing, West Sussex, who admitted fraud by false representation, was jailed for a year, suspended for two years and ordered to do 100 hours' unpaid work.