A PENSIONER who fooled the art world for years by selling fake antiques his son had "knocked up" in his garden shed avoided a jail sentence yesterday.
Wheelchair-bound George Greenhalgh, 84 – dubbed the "artful codger" – was given a two-year suspended jail sentence at Bolton Crown Court.
Greenhalgh would turn up in his wheelchair at art houses and museums claiming to have found or inherited the objects.
But his son Shaun, working in the garden shed at the family's modest terrace home in Bolton, had faked the items using art and history books.
Forgeries made by the family were sold for at least 850,000, the court heard, with Greenhalgh using the ruse to fool art experts for almost 18 years. Their biggest success was convincing the local council-owned Bolton Museum to part with 440,000 for the Princess Amarna statuette.
The 20-inch piece was authenticated by the Egyptology department at Christie's and the British Museum as 3,300 years old and was purportedly a figurine of the daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti, the mother of King Tutankhamun.
In fact, it had been made in Shaun Greenhalgh's shed in three weeks.
Judge William Morris told the court that the prison service could not look after Greenhalgh because of his age and infirmity.
"You and your son and wife, over a period of 17 years, conspired together to deceive the art world and the world of antiquities, galleries, museums, auction houses, experts and collectors, both private and public," the judge told the defendant.
"Yours was a subordinate but very important role in this conspiracy."
The family made a fortune by George Greenhalgh turning up at art galleries and institutions with "antiques" and asking stunned experts if his heirloom was worth anything.
Shaun Greenhalgh was an expert forger, the court heard, with undoubted talent – but was thoroughly dishonest.
Some of his work is now scattered throughout the art world: a piece purportedly by the French master Paul Gaugin recently being unmasked as a fraud by its owner, the Chicago Art Institute.
Police calculated that George and Shaun Greenhalgh benefited through the sale of their work by 644,081.35 and Olive Greenhalgh by 430,392, the court was told.
Shaun Greenhalgh was jailed for four years and eight months last November.
Olive, 83, was given a 12-month jail term suspended for 12 months at the same hearing, after pleading guilty to the same offences.
Officers have now seized their assets and the court ordered 404,250.24 be confiscated from the family – most of it, 384,003.38, from Shaun's Halifax bank account.
The money will be shared out among various claimants who were defrauded.