Crime 8 People Arrested Over 'Biggest Art Fraud in World History' Ontario Provincial Police said in a press conference that they have seized more than a thousand forged paintings, prints and others arts claiming to be made by Indigenous artist Norval Morrisseau By Kimberlee Speakman Published on March 10, 2023 11:16 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: HANDOUT/Ontario Provincial Police/AFP via Getty Images Eight people have been arrested in connection with a case police have called the "biggest art fraud in world history." Ontario Provincial Police said in a press conference on Mar. 3 that along with the arrests, they have laid down 38 charges in a case involving the alleged widespread forging of artwork by renowned artist Norval Morrisseau, who's widely regarded as the leading contemporary Indigenous artist in Canada. At the same time, Ontario police have seized more than a thousand forged paintings, prints and others arts — although they admitted "the total number" of forgeries "produced and sold is unknown." Detective Inspector Kevin Veillieux with Ontario provincial police said in the press conference that there were three different groups behind the fraud, each copying Morrisseau's art style and releasing art in his name. This included one group called the "Thunder Bay Voss group", which was allegedly created in 1996 by a man named David Voss, Veillieux said, per The Times. Canadian authorities believe Voss had "forged some paintings himself, before growing his organization into an assembly line of painters" and had even been "responsible for selling and consigning these fakes." Prince Charles Hit by One of the Most Incredible Art Hoaxes in Royal History Another group dubbed the "Lamont group" was allegedly created in 2002 by Gary Lamont, who Veillieux said "recruited two indigenous painters, including Norval Morrisseau's nephew, Benjie or Benjamin Morrisseau" to create forgeries, per The Times. The latest forgery group allegedly emerged around 2008 and was created by Jeffrey Cowan, who Veillieux said, "provided false information for provenances and the forgeries and made up stories about the art's origins," The Times reported. HANDOUT/Ontario Provincial Police/AFP via Getty Images The investigation into the forgeries reportedly began after Canadian filmmaker Jamie Kastner created a 2019 documentary called There Are No Fakes, which spotlighted a lawsuit between Canadian Barenaked Ladies band member Kevin Hearn and the Maslak McLeod Gallery. This then delved into the fraud rings based in Morriseau's hometown of Thunder Bay, according to The Art Newspaper. Hearn claimed that the gallery sold him a fraudulent Morrisseau painting, and while the case had been initially dismissed, he appealed and was eventually awarded over $41,000 in damages, per the publication. Renaissance Drawing Bought for $30 at Yard Sale Discovered to Be Worth at Least $10 Million Kastner told The Art Newspaper that he believed there were "at least 3,000 more forgeries out there" but "a huge portion" of these "are easy to identify through a signature on the back in English," whereas Morrisseau signed his work in Ojibwe as "Copper Thunderbird." Jeff Goode/Toronto Star via Getty Images The estate of Norval Morrisseau has not yet responded to PEOPLE's request for comment but did issue a statement on its website in response to the case. "The Estate of Norval Morrisseau is very aware of the issues surrounding his art and we will work to bring clarity, justice and confidence back to his collectors," the statement said. "The Estate hopes the historic legal work being done on this matter will change the Canadian Art marketplace in a positive way for all parties." The estate also said that a legal contact had been created for people who have "inquiries on the suspected art fraud." Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases. Thunder Bay police detective Jason Rybak echoed that statement in the press conference for the investigation, saying that people who were wondering "if the Morrisseau they have is authentic" should call a lawyer. Norval Morrisseau was nicknamed the "the Picasso of the North" and was known for founding the Woodlands School of Art. His art depicted "the legends of his people, the cultural and political tensions between native Canadian and European traditions, his existential struggles, and his deep spirituality and mysticism," according to his website.