BY KARA DUFFY, WPEC
BOCA RATON, Fla. (CIRCA via WPEC) — He was known as the ultimate counterfeiter, a modern-day "Catch Me If You Can" story, printing over $10 million in fake money.
“I started printing money at a young age," said Arthur J. Williams Jr., who grew up in Chicago. “I did it for a long time, got caught, ended up going to prison for seven years.”
It was behind bars in federal prison where Williams started painting money instead of printing it; with each stroke, he found a newfound purpose.
“The guards weren’t there anymore,” he said. “When I was with the canvass and I was brushing the oil, I felt like I was in a different world, didn’t feel like I was in prison anymore.”
Williams said the class instructor couldn’t believe his raw talent.
“When I showed it to the teacher, he was like, ‘Man there is no way you can paint this. You’ve never painted anything like this in your life. It is crazy complicated.’ And he said it would take forever. And I said, 'Listen, I got six years man.'”
During those six years, Williams said he truly mastered his craft, dedicating all of his time to reading, writing, and of course, painting.
His artwork was all inspired by what he was most familiar with ... money. Williams says when he got out of prison five years ago, he knew he wanted more for his life.
Eventually, he crossed paths with Jeffrey Elson, someone who believed in him.
“Loved the art, loved the story and now we are working partners,” Elson said. “I do the business, he does the art.”
“Mr. Elson, he has been amazing,” Williams added. “He has really shown me not only how to be a businessman but a better man.”
After some networking and landing local gigs like an appearance at Art Basel in Miami, the pair decided to open their own art gallery in Boca Raton.
“Business is flying; he’s the new Andy Warhol,” Elson said.
Williams says each money-themed oil painting is a reminder of how far he’s come and how bright the future is.
“I realized that the art was more than just me being financially secure or being able to do something beautiful that you can hang on the wall," Williams said. "It really was about changing people’s lives.”
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