Virtual Workshop Trains U.S. Law Enforcement to Detect Trafficking in Fakes and Forgeries

July 26, 2021


Does this painting look like a Henri Matisse? That's the point! It was actually painted by a convicted art forger. Photo courtesy of the FBI Art Crime Team.
Trafficking in stolen, looted, or forged art, antiquities, and other cultural objects benefits criminal organizations and terrorist groups, erodes the legal art market, and harms our relationships with foreign partners and allies. To counter trafficking, U.S. law enforcement personnel received specialized training on trends in illicit trade. 

In July 2021, the Cultural Antiquities Task Force (CATF) held a virtual training workshop for federal law enforcement to build best practices and enhance their knowledge about fakes and forgeries in the cultural property market.  The training brought together over 60 participants from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),  the State Department, the Smithsonian Institution, international partners, and representatives from universities, museums, and the private sector.  Federal investigators and customs officers also learned how to identify fake documentation and clues that an object may be a forgery. 


This purported Clementine Hunter painting is actually the work of a convicted art forger. Photo courtesy of the FBI Art Crime Team.
This training was the third in a series of virtual anti-trafficking workshops supported by the CATF and organized by the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum Conservation Institute, HSI, and FBI.  The workshops provided U.S. law enforcement with knowledge and capabilities to help identify, investigate, and prosecute activities related to some of the most-trafficked categories of cultural property.  

This workshop supplemented the CATF’s annual training program that, in partnership with HSI and the Smithsonian, has now trained over 360 law enforcement personnel since 2009. Collectively, members of the CATF have successfully repatriated more than 20,000 pieces of cultural property to more than 45 countries since 2004. 


About the Cultural Antiquities Task Force  

Created by the State Department in 2004 at the direction of Congress, the CATF comprises federal agencies that share a common mission to combat cultural property trafficking in the United States and abroad. Since its creation, the CATF has supported more than 100 domestic and international cultural property training programs. CATF is a law enforcement focused working group of the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee.  Both are managed by the State Department’s Cultural Heritage Center.