Individuals in New York who are considering purchasing antiques from a dealer with no website who is selling property formerly owned by a deceased person should do a little investigation before handing over their hard-earned money. This advice comes after authorities arrested two dealers operating in the city for fraudulent activities. The specifics of the allegations include reports that the dealers fabricated the histories of the antiques they sold.

The two men have partnered for years at a Manhattan arts dealership known as Fortuna Fine Art. Prosecutors say the two men practiced and mastered the scam they ran on brokers and buyers for nearly as long as they have been in business. Criminal law experts say charges against the men include misappropriating identities of the deceased and aggravated identity theft.

A federal indictment unsealed in a Manhattan court alleges the men began their scheme in 2015. The gallery operated without a website and provided no inventory list for potential customers to peruse. The indictment says they commonly used falsified documents to facilitate sales. Some reports also connect the two men to a smuggling ring based in Turkey.

Authorities say an auction house in New York fell victim to the scheme engineered by the two men in 2015. One of the men worked mostly at finding buyers for the items sold by the duo as well as locating additional items from places in Asia. The other man maintained the Manhattan store.

The most serious of the charges lodged against the two men can earn them as much as 20 years in prison. The U.S. Attorney for New York’s Southern District says the legitimacy of the antique market is built on the accuracy of information dealers provide to prospective customers. The U.S. Attorney says the actions of the two men arrested in New York undermined the validity of the market in America and is asking that anyone with additional information about the dealings of the men to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Allegations of fraud can result in loss of liberty, fines and serious damage to the accused person’s reputation. Individuals facing these types of criminal charges may do well to involve an attorney as early in the process as possible.