Three men organised an £18,000 scam involving a painting of Marilyn Monroe’s lips at a Bluewater art gallery.
The gang went to Whitewall Gallery where they bought the piece of art by Craig Allen for £6,445.
But they tricked the assistant by pretending to pay with a credit card before diverting the bill to another innocent account.
Then, while the painting was being packed, the trio used the card machine to illegally claim refunds.
Judge Charles Gratwicke stopped the prosecution from revealing in open court precise details of how they carried out the brazen frauds.
Thieves Kouassi Bognini, 26, of Turners Court, St Ann’s Road, North London; Ede Obhiagbon, 26, of Oldfield Place, Dartford; and Gregory Bomboko, 25, of Valkyrie Road, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex all pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiring to defraud the gallery.
The judge told them: “You took this property and…