In 1947 the artist Han van Meegeren stood in the criminal court in Amsterdam and admitted he was guilty of forgery in what may be the greatest known art fraud. Forty years later, in 1987, Mark Hofmann confessed his guilt of forgery, fraud, and murder growing out of what may be the greatest known historical document fraud. The two cases show some striking similarities.
These two men, the artist and the forger, turned their considerable talents to crime because of vanity, anger, and greed. They might have gone undetected, but the love of money held them captive. They risked again and again exposure and imprisonment, unable to quit while ahead. Their forgeries went undetected for years but ultimately came to light when police began investigating the men for much different crimes. As bizarre as the story of Mark Hofmann may seem, he was merely acting out a new production of an old play.