The ‘Made in Chelsea’ star and her fraudster fiancé is the wildest story
Her, a Chelsea socialite and well-known reality star, him, a gallery owner/high-end art dealer… and the man behind one of modern day’s most infamous scams.
Have you heard the one about the Made in Chelsea star and her art dealer swindler fianceé? With so much talk of scams and con artists, it’s a wonder there hasn’t been more talk about Victoria Baker-Harber and Inigo Philbrick, but theirs is quite the story.
As one of the stars of the hit reality show, Victoria has had her fair share of scandals over the years… however, none so great as the plot of her real-life though.
Lost? Let me catch you up.
A 34-year-old American art dealer, Inigo Philbrick was once one of the most well-connected men in the art industry. Born in Connecticut, he later moved to the UK where he studied at Goldsmiths University. After graduating, he started working as an intern at The White Cube Gallery. A few years later, he opened his own art gallery in Mayfair with a second place in Miami – all the while building up a small fortune of £53 million.
Meanwhile, Victoria Baker-Harber was busy establishing herself in her own right. A socialite and designer hailing from Chelsea, an affluent area in London, OK! reports that she has a net worth of over £1.5 million herself – mostly thanks to her luxury beachwear brand, Elle-en-Jette.
First getting together back in 2017, Inigo and Victoria started dating just months after Inigo’s former relationship with fellow art dealer Fran Mancini (who he also has a child with) ended. Three years later and Victoria herself became pregnant with Inigo’s baby, though she decided to keep her pregnancy private until after she had already given birth to their daughter, Gaia-Grace.
Two summers ago, Inigo was arrested by the FBI while on the run and this is where things get really interesting. Due to appear in court for hearings in both Miami and London in November 2019, Philbrick failed to show up but was eventually tracked down on an island in the South Pacific and has been in jail ever since.
Charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, Philbrick had already been evading the authorities for almost eight months by the time he was caught.
According to US attorney, Damian Williams, “Inigo Philbrick was a serial swindler who took advantage of the lack of transparency in the art market to defraud art collectors, investors and lenders of more than $86million to finance his art business and his lifestyle”.
Originally supposed to be sentenced in early March, his hearing was since delayed and Philbrick is now expected before a New York federal court next week. Already pleading guilty to swindling former clients out of over £70 million – a feat he managed by selling the same valuable masterpiece several times over to different investors, sometimes at inflated prices – Philbrick admitted that he “did it for the money”.
Filed documents submitted to the court also allege that he had a reputation for “hard drinking”. “He would begin drinking alcohol at lunch and continued to do so throughout the day, often using illegal drugs as well”. Why? Because this is “how art deals are done”, the document continued.
Ordered to pay more than £63.9 million, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. Philbrick’s lawyer, Jeffery Lichtman, maintains that he “isn’t the cause” but “a symptom” of a “corrupt” industry. “I suspect many more cases like this would appear if the art world were investigated thoroughly,” he commented.
“While his actions were dishonest and criminal in nature, he’s part of an industry sick from top to bottom where this sort of behaviour is sadly commonplace. That being said, he apologises to his victims and will do all that he can to make them whole.”
True love prevails?
Victoria was reportedly unaware of Inigo’s crimes and though she has been to visit him in jail, he has yet to meet their daughter. She continues to speak very positively of Philbrick though, telling friend Tabitha Willett, that her relationship status is “complicated”. “I don’t think I’m really single, it’s complicated. He’s incarcerated right now, like we’re awaiting sentencing.
“It’s financial, white-collar stuff, but unfortunately, he’s been held in a place where it’s like maximum security. I’ve only seen him once since all of this happened and he was shackled. I don’t really cry about it anymore. He’s Gaia’s father and I owe it to her to, I don’t know – to do my best.
“He’s the kindest person I’ve ever known. He was always so willing to do anything for me, he would never fight with me and I’d be so desperate for a fight. He brought out the best in me. He was so loyal, really funny. I just have to get through to the next part and I just am like, I can’t wait for the day when I can finally have my little family together again.”
In addition to the federal case, Philbrick still faces numerous civil lawsuits from investors who paid millions for art or shares in artworks that they say they never received, and for which Philbrick is accused of improperly reselling.
It all sounds movie-worthy, no? Hollywood certainly thinks so and many well-known producers are reportedly already vying for the rights to the story which has all the makings of being a hit blockbuster.
Photography via @victoriabh.