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By Peter J. Nash
August 22, 2014

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The release of the witness list for the upcoming trial of former Mastro Auctions employee, William Boehm, confirmed what Hauls of Shame has been  reporting for the past few years —that REA auction president, Rob Lifson, was one of the government’s key witnesses in the prosecution of its case against Bill Mastro. The appearance of Lifson’s name on the list also confirms that he cooperated with the Feds and informed on Mastro after shill-bidding schemes were uncovered during an investigation of Ohio political fundraiser Tom Noe in 2006.  Lifson may be called to testify against Mastro’s former IT director but he may also be a less than stellar witness with his own checkered past and his having presided over the fraud committed at the auction house when he was still a Director of the company with Mastro.

By the time the evidence of the auction house shill-bidding was uncovered in the 2006 “Coin-Gate” investigation, Lifson had already left and proceeded to rat out Mastro by turning over additional evidence that further implicated his old friend with the Feds.  Providing additional motivation for Lifson to turn on Mastro was the fact the former hobby heavyweight had cashed out and sold Mastro Auctions to “Flip” Filipowski for close to $5 million after buying out Lifson for what one source says was just a “few hundred thousand dollars.”

Accusations of shill-bidding at MastroNet had been made against both Mastro and Lifson as early as April of 2002 and at that time Lifson denied the charges to this writer calling the allegations “stupid” and added that he and Mastro ran “the cleanest auction on the face of the earth.”  But as Mastro’s recent plea agreement describes in great detail, the auction house operated by Mastro, Lifson and Doug Allen was already shill-bidding customers like Tom Noe in its Spring 2002 Americana auction.  Noe had purchased over $1 million in memorabilia from MastroNet and the plea agreement also states that in the Spring of 2002 the auction house “used a shill account belonging to a friend of an auction house employee to drive up individual (Tom Noe’s) ceiling bids.”

Now, nearly twelve years after their company’s shill-bidding schemes were in full effect, the two former friends and hobby lifers are set to appear with their former employee, Brian Marren, to help the US Attorneys convict ex-Mastro IT director William Boehm who is alleged to have lied to FBI agents about his role in the destruction of auction bidding records.  The Mastro-Lifson reunion is an unlikely pairing to say the least as Mastro’s last public statement regarding Lifson appeared in Dave Jamieson’s 2010 book Mint Condition where he said, “Lifson and I were best friends at one point and we hate each other now.”  Lifson, on the other hand, has been gloating and reveling in his former partner’s demise and sending out emails to associates with the plea agreements from the Mastro case.

Boehm’s attorneys will likely challenge the credibility of Mastro, Marren and other Mastro employees who cut plea deals or avoided prosecution by turning on others, including Boehm.  Mastro is cooperating in hopes of receiving a reduced sentence while Marren was given immunity in the case for his full cooperation with the government.  That being said, how credible will Lifson’s testimony be in the government’s case based upon his own past statements defending Mastro against allegations of criminal activity that were made as early as 2002 when both men were still running

The roster c.2002: (Top row l. to r.) Bill Mastro, Rob Lifson, Doug Allen, Mark Theotikos & Brian Marren; (2nd Row l. to r.) Dan Knoll, Dave Bushing, Steve Grad, Louis Bollman & Ron Oser; (Third row l. to r.) Simeon Lipman, Kevin Struss, Don Flanagan, Mike Gutierrez and Laura Harden; (Bottom Row l. to r.) Brian Bigelow, Steve Penhacker & Josh Petrie.

It was in late 2002 that Lifson told this writer that the claims of fraud, shill-bidding and sales of stolen property at MastroNet were “ridiculous” and that people accusing the auction house of criminal acts were “out of their mind” and “grasp(ing) onto this stupid idea that we’re not an auction house (MastroNet), we’re criminals and that we cheat people and its stupid.”  When informed that a collector was planning on filing suit against the company owned by him and Mastro, Lifson went so far as to deny any allegations and say, “I can assure you that we run the cleanest auction on the face of the earth, nobody does what we do, you know, and I don’t even know why he’s got this thing with Bill (Mastro), but you know I’m sitting here thinking, you know what,  I might have more fun if he did sue us.”  Based upon the Motion the government filed to admit evidence and co-conspirator statements, it appears that Lifson was lying and that he likely had knowledge of the shill-bidding schemes including fictitious bidders, bogus auction results and “dead paddles” from inactive accounts.

Lifson has denied the claims made by Hauls of Shame in reports identifying him as an informant in the Mastro case.  In 2013, he told blogger Murray Chass, “I was a minority owner and employee of MastroNet from 2000 to 2002.  He (Hauls of Shame) knows nothing of me being a ‘government informant.’ Virtually all if not all of their crimes in the indictment occurred long after I left MastroNet so that speaks for itself.”  The Mastro plea agreements, however, clearly show that Lifson was running the company with Mastro while the significant shill-bidding of Tom Noe was in full swing.  In addition, Lifson’s inclusion on the witness list speaks for itself in relation to Lifson’s role as an actual informant.

As late as April of 2002, when Lifson was still in the Mastro fold as a company director, he fully supported all of the Mastro employees who have already plead guilty in the current case saying, “We have thirty-five people who work for our company (MastroNet) and they’re all honest and they are all working to have a great auction and auction company.”  All of the statements made supporting Mastro and denying any criminal activity at the company were made to this writer and taped as part of an early investigation into MastroNet business practices in 2002.  The actual audio of Lifson’s statements can be heard by clicking on this link: Lifson Nash audio April 2002.

In addition, how credible will Lifson appear to a jury if they hear how blatantly he has lied about his involvement in regard to the “PSA-8″ T-206 Honus Wagner card that Mastro admitted to trimming in his plea agreement.  The government charged that Mastro had promoted the Wagner card as unaltered and pristine in advertisements heralding the auction company as the leader in the sports collectibles industry and Lifson is just as guilty of that same charge considering he not only fraudulently promoted the card he knew was trimmed but he also sold the card in a 2000 MastroNet/Robert Edward Auctions sale.  Lifson also failed to disclose that he had been the owner of the card before it sold to collector Brian Seigel for over $1.2 million.  Knowing that his partner had altered the Wagner card to enhance its value, Lifson even told the Wall Street Journal in 1996 that the trimmed Wagner was, “the Mona Lisa of the field.”

Rob Lifson (left) outbid Bill Mastro (center) at Christie's and took home the Wagner card for $651,500. Lifson said he was only bidding for Mike Gidwitz, but a source says they were 50/50 partners.

One prominent collector whose identity we have kept anonymous in prior reports and call “Hobby-Deep-Throat” told this writer on the night of the 2000 MastroNet sale of the trimmed Wagner that Lifson had approached him to be a minority partner in the purchase of the Wagner card at a Christie’s sale back in 1996.  The collector declined the offer but also confirmed that Lifson had told him he knew Mastro had trimmed the Wagner card PSA had graded as an “8.”  After his offer was turned down, Lifson went to Chicago area collector Mike Gidwitz to partner with him on the card and Lifson purchased the Wagner at auction for $641,000 on behalf of the duo.  Lifson, however, appears to have lied to Sports Collectors Digest and other outlets when he said he was only the agent bidding on the card for Gidwitz, who he claimed was the actual owner.

Hauls of Shame contacted Gidwitz at his home in Chicago to comment on the actual ownership of the now infamous Mastro-Wagner but he declined comment.  But a source who claims to have first hand knowledge of the Gidwitz-Lifson relationship, told us that Lifson and his eccentric friend went “50/50″ on the $640,500 purchase of the card in 1996 at Christie’s and that Gidwitz bought Lifson out of the card sometime before it was sold for $1.2 million at MastroNet/REA in 2000.

MastroNet sold a signed Harry Wright cabinet card that was stolen from the NYPL's Spalding Collection. The card was credited to the NYPL in publications and has unique damage on the albumen print. Time Magazine reported the 1979 apprehension of MastroNet director Rob Lifson (inset) who was caught stealing rare CDV's and cabinet cards at the library's 42nd St. branch.

Lifson’s own past criminal history as an institutional thief could also cloud his testimony in Federal Court.  Lifson was caught stealing rare CDV’s and cabinet cards at the New York Public Library while he was a student at the Wharton School of Business at UPenn in 1979. Lifson confessed to this writer that he was caught “palming” a rare CDV at the NYPL but claimed that his theft was a one-time occurrence.  Lifson contradicted that story when he told Sports Illustrated that he had stolen more than one item and previously lied to the New York Daily News stating he never stole anything from the institution.  Most all of the stolen NYPL artifacts ended up in the collection of Lifson’s top customer, Barry Halper, who is said to have orchestrated the NYPL thefts according to a high-placed hobby and baseball source.

Complicating Lifson’s testimony even more is the fact that items he is believed to have stolen from the NYPL’s Spalding Baseball Collection were actually sold by MastroNet while Lifson and Mastro were directors of the company and had full knowledge that they were selling stolen materials.  Some of the items appearing in the MastroNet auction that have been identified as NYPL property include an autographed 1874 Warren cabinet card of Harry Wright, three autographed 1872 CDV’s of George Wright, Ross Barnes and Cal McVey, an 1875 CDV of the Hartford Dark Blues featuring Candy Cummings and an 1887 cabinet card of the Buffalo Bisons featuring Frank Grant among other items.  All of these unique artifacts appear on the original 1922 Spalding inventory and the subsequent 1987 “Missing List” prepared by the library after conducting an updated inventory of the collection and most of the items sold by Lifson and Mastro bear unique inscriptions documented on the original NYPL inventory from 1922.

MastroNet sold several items stolen from the NYPL's Spalding Collection including CDV's of George Wright, Ross Barnes and Cal McVey. The CDV's are documented on the 1922 NYPL inventory (right) and were once owned by Barry Halper before collector Jim Montgomery consigned them to MastroNet in 2000.

MastroNet even sold items stolen from the Boston Public Library’s famous M. T. McGreevey Collection that are suspected to have been stolen by Lifson in conjunction with a similar scheme also orchestrated by deceased New York Yankees general partner Barry Halper.  One smoking gun BPL item sold by Mastro and Lifson was an 1882 cabinet photograph of the Boston BBC which had its library ownership stamp defaced to conceal its provenance.  Lifson and Halper sold over a dozen other rare photographs stolen from the BPL’s McGreevy Collection at Sotheby’s in 1999 and Lifson recieved several other stolen BPL items consigned for his REA auction from Halper’s widow after his death in 2005.  When Lifson and Mastro were accused of selling items stolen from the NYPL in 2002 Lifson responded stating sarcastically,“That’s what we do, we sell stolen property because we like to.  We sell stolen property because that’s what we do, ya know.  No one wants to give us the un-stolen property we have to sell the stolen property.  You know, it’s just stupid.”

When Lifson first told FBI agents about the misdeeds committed at MastroNet and Mastro Auctions they were totally unaware of Lifson’s apprehension for stealing at the NYPL and his well documented sales of stolen items from the NYPL and BPL.  In fact, Lifson made the FBI aware of several stolen items and assisted with the recovery efforts of at least one cabinet photo of Harry Wright which had been offered for sale by dealer Lew Lipset in 2005.  It wasn’t until July of 2009, when Hunt Auctions and MLB offered a rare cache of documents addressed to Harry Wright that were stolen from the NYPL’s Spalding Collection that the FBI became fully aware of Lifson’s theft from the NYPL and the full scope of the alleged Lifson-Halper involvement in the milion-dollar heist from the library. After the FBI was made aware of Lifson’s history related to the Spalding Collection, his help in recovering the Harry Wright cabinet card was viewed differently as one FBI special agent told this writer, “He (Lifson) was just throwing us a bone” and “trying to look like he was helping.”

Lew Lipset (top right) wrote a letter to Judge Ronald Guzman (bottom) informing him of Bill Mastro's history of altering cards to enhance their value. Lipset and other sources have accused Rob Lifson of engaging in similar fraudulent activity. Mastro and Lifson ran joint ads in "The Trader Speaks" in the early 1980s (top left) stating that the their "condition standards" for cards were "second to none.".

Lastly, Lifson’s credibility is challenged by his own past history as an alleged “card doctor” and accusations by veteran hobbyists that, like Mastro, he regularly trimmed, cut, bleached, colored and took creases out of cards to improve their condition and value.  The accusations against Lifson as a card doctor were even alluded to in a letter to Judge Ronald Guzman who is presiding over the Mastro case.  The subtle mention of Lifson’s card-altering skills was written by hobby veteran Lew Lipset and published by the Court describing Bill Mastro as “despicable” and recounting a particular instance when Mastro was viewing cards at a dealer table in the 1980’s.  Lipset recalled how Mastro told the dealer, “…these look a little short (i.e. trimmed), did you get them from me or Robert (Lifson)?”  Lipset added for the Judge, “Bill’s tendency to trim cards was widely known throughout the hobby.”  In an interview with Lipset for our upcoming book, The Madoff of Memorabilia, he also stated that Lifson’s trimming of cards was also well known throughout the hobby.  Several other sources have recounted disturbing card enhancement activities perpetrated by Mastro and Lifson in hotel rooms they shared at major shows and conventions.

The fact that Lifson is also the most litigious individual in the history of the hobby could also be problematic for prosecutors if the Boehm trial moves forward.  By his own admission, Lifson spoke of his proclivity for litigation when he and Mastro were accused of shill bidding and other fraudulent activities back in 2002.  In response to the accusations, Lifson told this writer, “I think I mentioned this to you (what) my record is. I’m undefeated. Because as nice a guy as I am, you know, when somebody is attacking me, I am the most incredible animal on the face of the earth, and that’s why I live in a mansion and could retire many, many, many times over and I will win and others will lose when the  chips are down, and that’s not going to change.  I’m better now than ever and it’s nice to hold a good hand because we (MastroNet) haven’t done anything.”

But the court documents and plea agreements filed in Chicago show that the auction house was committing crimes and Lifson’s claims of an undefeated record in court appear to be limited to his home turf in Somerset County, New Jersey. Lifson and his attorney, Barry Kozyra, have had great success litigating memorabilia cases at the Somerset County Courthouse including one victory against this writer who sued Lifson but ended up signing a stipulation of settlement in favor of Lifson and his auction house for over $760,000.  Lifson won another case in 2008 against a consignor from Baltimore, Maryland, named Anthony Raymond who chronicled his legal battle with Lifson at The Rip-Off Report.

Lifson, who hails from the family that co-founded the Dominion Electrical Manufacturing Company, has had the advantage of utilizing a family waffle-iron fortune to back his memorabilia businesses ever since he was a teenager placing ads in publications stating that he had “unlimited capital available for (his) wants.”  More recently Lifson has advertised that he has “unmatched financial security, millions in assets, no liabilities (and) millions of dollars available at all times at a moment’s notice for cash advances.”  Lifson’s financial wherewithal has enabled him to litigate adversaries into submission in his own backyard of Somerset County but more recently he is facing some much more formidable opposition.

The Lifson family co-founded the Dominion Electrical company and made a fortune selling waffle-irons and toasters. Rob Lifson's grandfather Nathan Lifson (top left), his uncle Burton Lifson (top right) and his father Kalman Lifson made the family fortune providing the foundation for REA's ads claiming access to millions of dollars available for consignments "within minutes."

Lifson is currently facing multiple claims of fraud in a lawsuit filed against him in Federal Court in Newark, New Jersey, by collector and real estate developer Corey R. Shanus of Purchase, New York. Despite claims made by attorney Barry Kozyra that the lawsuit was frivolous, the Court has allowed the case to proceed with Shanus’ claims that Lifson sold him fakes, artificially inflated prices and schemed to defraud him.  Lifson’s counterclaim filed against Shanus, however, was dismissed in its entirety.  The litigation is on-going.  (Some of the items Shanus claims Lifson sold as fakes were once owned by this writer and Barry Halper.)  When Lifson served as the auction consultant for the Halper sale at Sotheby’s in 1999, he oversaw and cataloged several million dollars in fraudulent and counterfeit artifacts attributed to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and a host of 19th century Hall of Famers.

An example of just how litigious Lifson can be is found in a 2010 counter suit the auctioneer filed against the State of New Jersey along with third-party complaints he filed against the prosecutor, assistant prosecutor and investigator of Bergen County who had pursued the consigned assets of a Lifson client named William Stratcher.  Stratcher made a large consignment to Lifson before being arrested for the illegal distribution of prescription drugs and the auction house was subsequently sued by the State.  Lifson filed the actions seeking damages for alleged violations of his federal and state constitutional rights and for tortuous interference, but the complaints were dismissed and he later refiled them claiming that his due process rights under the U.S. Constitution were violated.   Lifson’s counterclaims were dismissed again and he also lost an appeal filed with the New Jersey Appellate Division.

Lifson is no stranger to the court room and if he does take the stand in the Boehm trial he could be joined by Mastro, Marren and at least nine other individuals including Frank DiRoberto, whose account was used to shill-bid scores of auction house customers.  While some observers feel that William Boehm might still enter a guilty plea like his co-Defendants others feel that the case will still move forward on September 9th.  If it does, one thing is for sure.  While many of the witnesses appearing for the government have checkered pasts due to the crimes they committed at Mastro Auctions, none of them, except perhaps Bill Mastro, will have as many credibility issues as Rob Lifson.

UPDATE (Aug. 28, 2014):  Mastro-Lifson Courtroom Reunion Nixed By Scheduled Guilty Plea of Auction House IT-Guy

Bill Mastro working the auction house phones in better days when Mastro Fine Sports Auctions ruled the roost.

Papers filed in Chicago Federal Court on Tuesday indicate that ex-Mastro Auctions IT director William Boehm will be joining his co-defendants and pleading guilty for lying to FBI agents in 2007 about destroying bidding records that revealed rampant shill-bidding at the once prominent auction house.  The scheduled guilty plea set for September 2nd also puts to bed the chances of a Courtroom reunion of ex-hobby friends and rivals Bill Mastro and Rob Lifson of Robert Edward Auctions.

A source familiar with the case told Hauls of Shame last week that Boehm would likely plead guilty because the government’s evidence against him was particularly strong and included recovered computer data from Mastro company IP addresses and allegedly one of Bill Mastro’s own computers.  So much for the memorabilia trial of the century.


The MastroNet shill-bidding crimes covered up by William Boehm occurred under the watch of company directors Mastro, Lifson and Allen (left). Lifson's attorney, Barry Kozyra (right), denies his client's involvement in the Mastro crimes during his tenure as company President.

Former Mastro Auctions and MastroNet Inc. IT Director, William Boehm, plead guilty last week to one count of lying to FBI agents in the course of the Mastro investigation. Boehm’s plea agreement states that the maximum sentence for his offense is 5 years imprisonment but the Government is asking that he be sentenced to between 0 to 6 months with probation.  The plea agreement also details Boehm’s involvement in destroying bidding records and disabling fraudulent bidding accounts in an attempt to conceal a massive company shill-bidding scheme.  After Boehm was interviewed by FBI agents in Kirkwood, Misouri, in 2007 he called Bill Mastro and told him “not to worry about the FBI’s investigation because he ‘took care of it,’ meaning that defendant Boehm made false and fraudulent statements to the FBI agents in an attempt to intentionally mislead them.”

In response to our original report about the Boehm case, the lawyer for REA auctioneer Rob Lifson claims that his client was not involved in any MastroNet wrongdoing.  In a cease and desist letter, attorney Barry Kozyra told Hauls of Shame, “Your latest report on the Mastro Auctions prosecution is a most bizarre attempt to turn reality upside down as to Mr. Lifson and REA.  After outlining the prosecution’s case as to Mastro Auctions and the individuals involved, including those pleading guilty to felonies for fraud, you suggest that somehow Mr. Lifson is both guilty of the crimes of the Mastro Auctions defendants and is the key witness for the Government, neither of which is true.”

Of course, Hauls of Shame has accurately depicted Lifson as “one of the Government’s key witnesses” and Lifson’s appearance on the US Attorney’s witness list speaks for itself.  In addition, the Boehm plea agreement sheds some more light on how far back the Mastro crimes extend and illustrates how they encompass the time period when Lifson was the President of MastroNet Inc. and was one of only three members of its Board of Directors along with Bill Mastro and Doug Allen, both of whom have already entered guilty pleas in the case.

This 2002 MastroNet website roster identifies Bill Mastro and Rob Lifson as the two primary principals for the auction giant. According to the Boehm plea agreement the MastroNet shill-bidding schemes date back to Lifson's tenure between 2001-2003.

Boehm’s plea agreement states that “In or around 2001, (Bill) Mastro requested that defendant Boehm provide him with a “dead paddle,” a paddle associated with an inactive bidder account, which he could use in order to place shill bids.  After Mastro told defendant Boehm what he needed, defendant Boehm told Mastro that he could use the F.D. (Frank DiRoberto) account.  Frank DiRoberto was a friend of defendant Boehm’s, and, as an accommodation so that he would receive free catalogs from the auction house.”  Then, by 2003, the plea agreement details how, “Mastro, in an effort to conceal shill bids he had placed using the F.D. (Frank DiRoberto) account, asked defendant Boehm to destroy all Auction House under bidder records associated with the F.D. account.”

Contrary to the claims made by Lifson’s attorney, Barry Kozyra, the Boehm plea agreement shows that the Mastro shill bidding schemes were in effect during Lifson’s tenure as a President and Director of MastroNet from 2001 to the Spring of 2003. Kozyra had no answers as to why his client lied to Murray Chass in 2013 and said the Mastro crimes “occurred long after” he left MastroNet.  Back in April of 2002, an interview with Mastronet VP Doug Allen on David Cycleback’s The Vintage Collector website revealed who had control of the auction house business.  When asked how MastroNet secured “unequaled sports material, both in quality and volume,”  Allen responded stating, “Bill Mastro and Rob Lifson (President of Americana Division) are the biggest catalysts for doing this.”  The current plea agreement shows that Mastro had instructed Boehm to destroy bidding records in 2003 and a source tells us that was when Mastro decided to split with Lifson and that he feared his old partner and rival might someday turn on him.

Between 2000 and 2003 Lifson and Mastro presided over the single largest collectibles auction house in the world conducting over twenty major auctions that grossed well over $100 million—and all of those sales took place during the time period Bill Mastro has admitted to engaging in fraudulent shill bidding schemes.  That being said, according to Lifson’s lawyer, Barry Kozyra, his client is “not guilty of the crimes of the Mastro Auctions defendants.”   As for Hauls of Shame’s reporting of the Mastro case and Lifson’s involvement Kozyra added, “Your continued attempt to cast Mr. Lifson and REA in a negative light with lies, innuendo and twisting of words-often fabricated or extracted from bits and pieces of reality and placed in a fictional world of your own- is most unfair and damaging.”  Kozyra also claims that the Hauls of Shame reports regarding the Mastro case are a “wrongful attempt to humiliate, embarrass and damage Mr. Lifson.” Kozyra, however, had no explanation for Lifson’s staunch defense of Mastro in 2002 when he told this writer, “I can assure you that we (MastroNet) run the cleanest auction on the face of the earth.” Kozyra has also requested that we remove the audio of Lifson defending Mastro claiming it was “illegally obtained.”

Sources indicate that the Smithsonian and The Henry Ford Museum were the victims of shill bidding schemes that took place under the watch of Bill Mastro and Rob Lifson.

Despite the statements made by Lifson’s lawyer, the Mastro guilty pleas have focused even more scrutiny on major items sold by Mastro and Lifson during the time they were partners.  In particular, several sources allege that the Mastro shill-bidding machine may have been in full swing during the bidding for the alleged Rosa Parks bus which was discovered by Lifson on eBay and sold to The Henry Ford Museum for $492,000 in the MastroNet’s first Americana auction in 2001. It was in MastroNet’s second Americana auction in 2002 that Mastro shill-bid Ohio political fundraiser Tom Noe and admitted to it in his recent guilty plea.

It was Lifson who secured the 2001 consignment of the bus from owner Donnie Williams and along with Mastro advanced $25,000 to the consignor in exchange for a higher than usual auction house fee upon sale.  MastroNet placed a minimum bid of $50,000 on the bus which had failed to sell for a $100,000 minimum previously on eBay.  After the bus appeared on eBay a second time, Lifson contacted the seller who withdrew the item and then consigned it to MastroNet. Sources indicate that the bidding approached a record $500,000 via shill-bidding that allegedly defrauded The Henry Ford Museum, The Smithsonian and the City of Denver, who were all bidding on the bus.

We asked one prominent collector familiar with the FBIs shill-bidding investigation whether he believed the Rosa Parks bus was shill-bid and he responded, “With Mastro, the (surviving) bidding records which weren’t purposely destroyed reveal that if it could be shilled it was shilled. Nothing was sacred to Mastro and no money was ever left on the table. I have no doubt that they committed fraud in the Rosa Parks bus auction.”

Hauls of Shame contacted the Henry Ford Museum to ask if they were aware of the Mastro guilty pleas and the evidence included in the plea agreements suggesting that the Mastro shill bidding schemes were in play when they were bidding on the bus.  A representative of the Ford Museum said that the individuals responsible for acquiring the bus were no longer working at the institution. The Henry Ford public relations department did not return our call for comment.

By Peter J. Nash

August 1, 2014

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The History Channel’s hit show Pawn Stars was the scene of one of the most embarrassing blunders in authentication history when PSA/DNA’s alleged expert, John Reznikoff, told millions of viewers that a Godfather movie script was signed by Al Pacino when it was actually signed by movie producer Al Ruddy. In another instance, pawn shop owner Rick Harrison said he lost 15-grand when he purchased a bogus book alleged to have been signed by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson that was authenticated by former PSA an current JSA authenticator Herman Darvick. But when Harrison sent the book to PSA/DNA, he got a letter back signed by the company’s senior authenticator, Steve Grad, stating that the Jackson autograph was not authentic. Safe to say, the show’s producers wanted to avoid any future embarrassments similar to the Reznikoff incident and other on-air authentication debacles orchestrated by former on-air expert Drew Max. Max billed himself as a forensic document examiner but he was notorious for authenticating signatures of players that had been placed on balls manufactured after they died as well as certifying as genuine mass produced facsimile signatures of historical figures like FDR.

As a result of these embarrassing episodes, Pawn Stars apparently cut ties with Max after a few seasons and Reznikoff has not appeared on the show since the Pacino debacle. In response to the on-air flubs, the popular cable franchise forged a new relationship with PSA/DNA authenticator, Steve Grad, to become the new expert for autographed items that walk into the Las Vegas pawn shop. PSA President, Joe Orlando, announced the partnership between the reality show and the subsidiary of the public company Collectors Universe in a press release which stated, “One of the missions of Professional Sports Authenticator and PSA/DNA Authentication Services is education. Steve Grad serves not only as an authentication expert, but also a great ambassador for the hobby of collecting.”  But according to a 2011 deposition Grad gave for to a lawsuit filed against PSA and Collectors Universe, it is Grad’s own education and the fabrication of his own professional history that are now calling into question his own credibility and the authenticity of millions of dollars worth of items that he has certified as genuine.

In one of Grad’s early appearances on Pawn Stars in June of 2013, a customer walked into the shop with a Babe Ruth signed bank check that was already accompanied by a PSA/DNA letter of authenticity signed by Grad.  Rick Harrison looked at the letter and told his customer, “It’s signed by Steve, he’s a friend of mine.”  Harrison added, “I know its legit because my buddy Steve authenticated it.”  Harrison views Grad as a credible expert in the field and the top representative of the authentication giant PSA which company President Joe Orlando described in his Pawn Stars press release as having “examined and certified over 20 million different sports, entertainment and historical collectibles with a combined total value of over $1 billion.”

Steve Grad's online bios published by MastroNet and PSA mention his holding a "BA in Broadcast Journalism" and state that his major at Columbia College led to a career as a broadcaster.

When it comes to autograph authentication, Steve Grad is PSA’s principal authenticator and he has the final say whether collectors’ items will become trash or treasure after PSA/DNA issues its LOA bearing his facsimile signature.  Grad’s bio on the PSA website has included references to his educational background which the company says led to his early career in radio including a stint on Sporting News Radio and a role as “Psycho Steve” on the Mancow Show.  The current bio states that Grad’s  ”major in Broadcast Journalism at Columbia College launched him into the radio world for seven years.”  In addition, the bio included a link to another PSA-authored article which describes Grad’s authentication training as having been acquired while he was working for Bill Mastro at MastroNet Inc. between 1999 and 2002.  In that 2006 article, Grad calls his time working for Mastro as “life changing” and added that he was a “quick learner” who after a short period of time was “authenticating autographs and assisting in the authentication and acquisition of memorabilia for MastroNet’s sports and non-sports auctions.”  PSA, however, has edited out all references to Grad’s past history with Mastro Auctions since his mentor, Bill Mastro was indicted on auction fraud charges in 2012.   When Grad was working at MastroNet he was featured on the company website as an “Autograph Authenticator” who had been “involved in the autograph industry for more than 20 years” and that he had “obtained more than 100,000 signatures of sports stars, celebrities, musicians and politicians–all in person.”  In addition to being an “autograph chaser” Mastro also specifically noted in the bio that Grad held a “BA in Broadcast Journalism.”

Grad has been portrayed as a college-graduate and a professionally trained expert in his field and guys like Rick Harrison and thousands of other PSA customers look to his opinion as the deciding factor as to whether they will pay big money for an item offered for sale.  But as Hauls of Shame has illustrated in our “Worst 100 Authentications” and several other investigative reports, Grad has certified scores of forgeries as authentic and has cost collectors hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses due to his authentication malpractice.  Now, Hauls of Shame has learned that not only has Grad authenticated fakes for years, but he also faked his own personal biography to portray himself in a better light.  As it turns out, Grad never graduated from Columbia College and never earned a degree in Broadcast Journalism.  In addition, Grad committed perjury and lied about receiving a degree from Columbia College when he was deposed in a 2011 lawsuit filed against his company for authenticating a signature of aviator Charles Lindbergh that Lindbergh’s daughter and her expert claimed was not genuine.  The autograph was included in an Upper Deck relic card along with an alleged strand of Lindbergh’s hair that was provided by PSA’s John Reznikoff.  A collector named Steven Sterpka acquired the card and later filed a lawsuit alleging that Grad and PSA/DNA had rejected the Lindbergh autograph when he later submitted it to RR Auctions, after PSA/DNA had already authenticated it.  Court documents show that PSA ultimately retracted that reversal of its original opinion.  When asked about that reversal in his deposition, all Grad would say is that, “A mistake was made.”

Grad said he was a college graduate and committed perjury in a court-ordered 2011 deposition for a lawsuit against his employer, Collectors Universe, that involved his authentication of a Charles Lindbergh autograph.

In the court ordered deposition taken by attorney Douglas Jaffe, Grad claimed to have received a degree in “Broadcast Journalism” and when asked if he had “received any formal education after (he) obtained (his) degree from Columbia College,” Grad replied, “No.”  Grad also could not remember when he graduated from Columbia College and when pressed for an exact year he answered, “Mid-90s.”  Some people reading Grad’s bios published by PSA and MastroNet may have assumed that Grad attended Columbia College in New York City and that his “Broadcast journalism” degree was affiliated with the world-famous Columbia School of Journalism, but the school’s Registrar, Marvin Cohen, confirmed for Hauls of Shame that Grad only “attended Columbia College Chicago from the Spring 1993 to the end of the Fall 1994 semester” and that he “did not graduate from the college.”  In addition,  Allison Sullivan of the Registrar’s Office at Chicago’s Roosevelt University confirmed that Grad “was enrolled at Roosevelt University from Spring 1990 to Fall 1992, but did not receive a degree.  His major at the time of enrollment was Speech Broadcasting.”

Also revealed in his testimony under oath, Grad stated that he had no formal training as an authenticator and that his primary training and education was provided by Bill Mastro and his auction house between 1999 and 2002.  Grad said, “(Mastro) exposed me to everything they see, what to look out for, different consignments that came in.  It was very educational.”  When asked what Mastro educated him to look out for when authenticating items Grad answered, “Forgeries to look out for, telltale signs.”   When asked what those tell-tale signs were Grad replied, “Fountain pens, ballpoint pens, different inks that forgers use to make things look old.”

Dan Knoll (left) was another hobby mentor to Steve Grad who is pictured with (l to r) Mastro and PSA authenticators John Reznikoff; Roger Epperson and Zach Rullo.

As revealed in our last “Operation Bambino” report, Grad may also have learned how to pass off forgeries as genuine items in Mastro sales.  As illustrated in our report, Grad and his former colleague, Jimmy Spence, have been authenticating forged Babe Ruth signatures dating back to the time when they were working as authenticators for Mastro, who recently plead guilty to fraud he committed while operating Mastro Auctions up until 2007.  Grad’s habitual authentication of forgeries, however, extends to the present day as evidenced by a baseball he authenticated that was removed from a sale conducted by Grey Flannel Auctions earlier this summer.  Grad authenticated that ball as the genuine article signed by Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth in 1928, but the ball itself was a modern day reproduction doctored up to look vintage and the signatures were facsimiles of forgeries that may have been placed on the ball by a stamp or a machine.  Sources indicate that Grey Flannel and its principal, Richard Russek, are also targets of the FBIs on-going Mastro investigation.

Grad has also attributed his success in the hobby to his affiliation with another Mastro associate, Dan Knoll, who lived across the street from Grad in suburban Chicago in the 1990s.   Knoll was a well known hobby veteran who operated as both a dealer and authenticator for the past several decades and Grad told PSAs Sports Market Report, “He (Dan Knoll) taught me about autographs, how to collect them, store them, and about values and authenticity.”  Knoll has been a business partner and close confidant of Mastro for the past several decades but sources indicate that it was Knoll who wore a wire for the government and helped obtain audio of Mastro admitting he had trimmed the now infamous PSA-8 T206 Honus Wagner card.

PSA's advertisements have featured fakes and frauds including the now infamous trimmed Mastro-T206 Wagner and a Steve Grad authenticated Babe Ruth forgery (left). As Bill Mastro is currently vilified on ESPN by Keith Olbermann (top right), Steve Grad appears on news telecasts geared towards consumer protection (bottom right).

On the current PSA website Grad says he owes a tremendous debt of gratitude” to both Mastro and Knoll and adds, “If it hadn’t been for them, I may never (have) had the chance to do what I’m doing today.”  Without the help from Mastro and Knoll, Grad says his ascent to principal authenticator at PSA “would have been a tremendous uphill battle for me.”  Considering the key role Mastro played in establishing the autograph authentication service at PSA; Grad’s close relationship with both Mastro and Knoll; and Grad’s authentication of forgeries distributed through Mastro auctions, sources indicate that Grad could be a target in the Mastro investigation as his old mentor cooperates with the Feds pursuant to his plea agreement.  Earlier this summer Mastro’s sentencing was postponed again until October 15, 2014, and sources indicate the postponement is a sign that prosecutors are gathering more information from Mastro in their prosecution of his co-defendants and other hobby associates like Grad.  The fact that Grad committed perjury under oath and has authenticated scores of forgeries in recent auctions suggests that investigators could take a closer look at Grad and the public company Collectors Universe (CLCT).

Steve Grad (left) finished filming episodes for "Pawn Stars" earlier this summer with Rick Harrison (right).

Despite all of the controversy swirling around PSA in relation to the FBIs Mastro investigation, Rick Harrison of Pawn Stars still holds the company and Grad in high regard.  In a 2012 interview in the Topeka Capital-Journal Harrison talked about PSA and Grad saying, “There is so much fake stuff out there. Anyone with a decent computer and printer can make a COA (Certificate of Authenticity). I have a friend who makes his living verifying signatures and I use that guy all of the time. PSA is really the only group I trust. I will hold off if they don’t have a PSA with them, unless they sign it right there in front of you.”

Harrison’s endorsement of PSA suggests that he and the producers of his TV show haven’t conducted sufficient due diligence to examine  Grad’s expensive authentication blunders on Ed Delahanty, Albert Spalding, Mickey Welch, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Candy Cummings, Jimmy Collins, Rocky Marciano and other recklessly authenticated signatures on items manufactured after the alleged signers died including a letter dated ten years after WWII Admiral Nimitz passed away.

Hauls of Shame attempted to contact Harrison this week to ask him about his relationship with Grad and about the authenticator’s fabricated biography but his Las Vegas-based spokesperson, Laura Herlovich, said Harrison was unavailable for comment and on vacation until Labor Day.

The problems for PSA and Grad are said to extend far beyond just the perjury, fabrications of biographies and the authentications of forgeries that the company and its supporters call “honest mistakes.”  Additional allegations have been made identifying Grad and fellow PSA authenticator John Reznikoff as manufacturers of bogus materials.  Reznikoff was also caught fabricating his own educational history after exaggerating his attendance records from Fordham University.  Like Grad, Reznikoff is not a college graduate and falsely stated in his online biographies that he attended Fordham for four years.  Reznikoff also has a history selling forgeries as noted in a 1999 The New York Times report that illustrates how Reznikoff authenticated and sold millions in forged documents attributed to JFK and Marilyn Monroe.  Reznikoff’s business partner, Lawrence X. Cusack III, claimed to have discovered the trove of JFK documents that Reznikoff authenticated but ABC News hired forensic specialists who determined they were all fakes.

Reznikoff was recently implicated in a 2012 Hauls of Shame report identifying the travels of a fraudulent baseball alleged to have been signed by a US President that had its “provenance” attributed to the PSA authenticator.  The Harry Truman single-signed baseball appeared for sale at Mastro Auctions in May of 2001 and at RR Auctions in November of 2004, and originally came with a MastroNet LOA from Mike Gutierrez who was employed by Bill Mastro at the time.  Mastro described the Truman signature as a “2″ on a scale of “10″ and RR identified the presidential scrawl as “light” with the date “a bit harder to see” and accompanied by COA’s from RR and “John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA.”  But when the same ball sold three years later at EAC Galleries it had transformed into a much darker signature and was described as the “Finest Example Extant” with its provenance attributed to John Reznikoff. The transformed Truman signature was first exposed in Stephen Koschal’s 2012 book, Collecting Signatures of The Presidents, and since that time it has been alleged that the Truman ball was transformed while it was in Reznikoff’s possession.

PSA/DNA has examined and authenticated items that have been fraudulently transformed from barely visible signatures to dark gem mint examples executed on paper items and baseballs. Examples include a Honus Wagner signature on a 1939 HOF first day cover (top) and a Harry Truman signed baseball linked to PSA's John Reznikoff.

A similar miraculous transformation of a Honus Wagner signature occurred with another Mastro auction lot that was examined by Grad in 2001 as Mastro’s lead “autograph expert.” The Wagner signature was described in a 1999 Mastro auction as “somewhat faded” and barely visible on a rare 1939 Hall of Fame First Day Cover signed by Wagner and every other HOF inductee.  But when it sold again in a 2001 MastroNet/Robert Edward Auctions sale, it appeared fraudulently enhanced as a dark “10/10″ Wagner signature.  The signature was examined and certified genuine by Grad and Mike Gutierrez for MastroNet and by Jimmy Spence for PSA/DNA.  Sources allege that Mastro and his associates may have been involved in the “restoration” of the Wagner signature from a faded to mint example.  In the course of the FBI’s Mastro investigation several allegations had been leveled against Mastro claiming that the auctioneer had restored other memorabilia items and baseball cards without disclosing the work done to customers.

Steve Grad has also been linked to the sale and alleged creation of other forgeries dating back to his career as a dealer in the 1990s.  Sources say he was removed from the floor of the 1998 National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago after he was accused of attempting to sell forgeries and, according to one eyewitness account, was escorted from the Rosemont Exhibition Center by convention security.  When asked about the incident in another court ordered deposition related to a 2006 lawsuit filed against Mastro Auctions, Grad stated he did not recall being ejected from the show, but did not deny the incident happened.

More recently, the identification of various Babe Ruth forgeries in our “Operation Bambino” investigation has led to further speculation and allegations by high-placed hobby sources who say that Grad has ties to many other forgeries that were distributed through Bill Mastro’s auction house.  After he started working at the Chicago based company he told fellow collectors in May of 2000 in a Google Group, “I was made a good offer and I wasn’t in a position to turn it down, so I took Mastro Fine Sports up on their offer and they purchased my entire inventory and now I work for them.”  Grad subsequently authenticated his own material for later Mastro sales and sources indicate that Grad was also beholden to Mastro operating under a quid pro quo to authenticate premier items placed in Mastro sales.  Supporting those allegations, Mastro told this writer on several occasions about having to “twist the arms” of Grad and Jimmy Spence to authenticate items slated for his sales.  This was after Mastro had expressed his opinion of the “so-called autograph experts” in the hobby in a 1994 letter where he wrote that they, “Don’t know shit.”  Mastro was influential in the formation of the PSA/DNA autograph authentication division of PSA and had considerable influence over his former employee who he elevated to expert status under his watchful eye.

Steve Grad will be signing autographs at the National on Saturday as the "Pawn Stars Expert" (left). Babe Ruth is apparently still signing autographs based upon all of the Grad and PSA/DNA authenticated Ruth forgeries on the market (right).

Additional evidence suggests that Grad has also knowingly authenticated Babe Ruth forgeries for the past fifteen years in order to protect personal friends, associates and auction house clients who would have to reimburse consumers if PSA/DNA opinions were rightfully reversed.  Sources indicate that as a result of our recent reports Grad’s authentications are under fire and customers who have been defrauded are demanding reimbursements from PSA and in the process of reporting their situations to the FBI and the Judge presiding over the Mastro case.  Sources indicate that PSA/DNA has recently rejected several Babe Ruth autographs submitted to auctions with previously issued PSA/DNA LOAs from Grad and Spence.

Keith Attlesey, an attorney representing both Grad and PSA, did not respond to our request for comment and did not confirm whether he was aware that Grad had perjured himself at the time of the 2011 deposition.  The current PSA website does not identify Grad as a college graduate like the MastroNet site had previously, thus suggesting that PSA officials may have been aware of Grad’s misrepresentations and his perjury under oath.

Grad and PSA/DNA currently serve as the authenticators of choice for major auction houses including Lelands, SCP, Heritage, Goldin and Huggins & Scott, all of which currently advertise on the PSA/Collectors Universe website.  We asked some of the auctioneers for their reaction to Grad’s perjury and their opinion of his authentication skills considering his admission that he received his training and education from Bill Mastro.  Josh Evans, Chairman of Lelands, responded but declined comment and Ken Goldin, President of Goldin Auctions, did not reply to our inquiry.  Lelands has always relied on its in-house authentication services and only recently has the auction house advertised with or utilized PSA/DNA experts like Grad.  Goldin, who has privately been critical of the experts he has dealt with at PSA/DNA offered several questionable items authenticated by PSA/DNA in his most recent Babe Ruth Anniversary auction.

Several dealers blacklisted by PSA in response to criticism leveled against the authentication giant have alleged what they claim amounts to a form of hobby racketeering.  PSA, they claim, offers protection against returns of materials submitted by customers who purchase from dealers or auction houses who are big PSA clients and in good standing.  Hauls of Shame has confirmed that claims of racketeering have been presented to FBI agents by at least two individuals who believe they have been victimized and harassed by PSA officials.

Steve Grad’s own words on the PSA website are a prime example as to why third-party authentication companies need to be regulated.  Of his company, Grad says, “There is no dealer, auction house or collector in their right mind  that doesn’t use our services, and that is because we deliver. Whether it’s with sportscards or autographs, PSA and PSA/DNA give the item instant credibility.”

One major collector who owns several hundred thousand dollars worth of material accompanied by Grad’s letters of authenticity told us, “If this guy Grad is lying under oath about something like his schooling how can I really be confident these certifications of authenticity are worth the paper they are printed on?  Would he intentionally pass bad items, too?  And with his close ties to Mastro, how can he ever be considered credible as an expert?”

Another hobby heavyweight was more amused by Grad’s scheduled appearance to sign autographs today as a Pawn Stars expert for fans at the Leaf booth at the National.  He told us, “I sure hope he doesn’t slip up and sign someone else’s name.”

UPDATE (August 15th):  Mastro Guilty Pleas Could Be Bad News For Collectors Universe; Graders Slabbed Fraudulent T-206 Plank But Feds Say PSA Was Not Complicit In Scheme To Defraud Collectors; Source Says PSA/DNA Is Complicit In Autograph Fraud

Doug Allen's plea agreement details the re-backing of a T206 Plank sold at Mastro for $51,000 (left). Allen endorsed PSA/DNA's autograph division headed by Joe Orlando(right) and Steve Grad.

Mastro Auctions executive Doug Allen plead guilty to one count of mail fraud earlier this week in Federal Court in Chicago and, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, his plea agreement also detailed his obstruction of justice after agreeing to wear a wire for the government.  Adding to the intrigue, court papers filed in Chicago also revealed that Mastro employee William Boehm will be going to trial in September and that two of the government’s witnesses slated to testify against him will be card-trimming buddies Bill Mastro and Rob Lifson of REA.

But also revealed in the court papers filed by US Attorneys was new information confirming that Mastro executives restored and or replaced the back of a rare but damaged T-206 Eddie Plank baseball card.  Doug Allen’s plea agreement states that Allen restored the card and a Mastro employee submitted the card to PSA where it received a high grade of “Ex-Mt 6″ before selling for over $51,519 in a 2004 Mastro sale.  In the plea agreement, the government says, “Neither Allen or the employee ever disclosed to the grading company (PSA) that the T-206 Eddie Plank card had been altered.   Defendant Allen knew that, had he disclosed that the card was altered, the grading company would not have assigned the card a numerical grade of “6,” which had the effect of artificially increasing the value of the card.”

Contrary to the government’s claim, the 2004 Mastro auction listing for the Plank card sheds some light on PSA’s possible complicity in the crime.  The lot description stated:

Graded EX-MT 6 by PSA, with only three examples in the world graded higher. Of the 26 copies of this card encapsulated by PSA (a total that’s only a few more than the hobby’s premier service has holdered of the famed T206 Honus Wagner card), the offered specimen is head-and-shoulders above nearly all of them in terms of refinement and preservation. Forever compared to the Wagner in terms of rarity, it can be stated definitively that the white-bordered tobacco insert card of Eddie Plank is the second most valuable baseball card in our hobby.”

While Bill Mastro admitted in his own plea agreement to trimming the fraudulent T-206 Honus Wagner card which was graded an “8″ by PSA, the Mastro Plank description notes the competing rarity of the Plank card and states that at the time PSA had only graded 26 examples of the card.  The government apparently believes that PSA graders are so incompetent that they could be fooled by both the Mastro trim-job and the Allen re-backing of the Plank card with a better “ex-mt” 350 Sweet Caporal back.

Several sources have told Hauls of Shame that the likelier scenario is that Mastro and his executives never had to instruct PSA to do a thing and that Mastro’s company was automatically given high grades for scores of altered and doctored cards simply because they wanted the support and business of the largest auction entity of the business.  The trimmed T-206 cards from the dubious “Harris Collection” found in PSA holders with grades of “8″ and other graded T-206 cards from the set purchased byBruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky at Sotheby’s in 1991 stand as evidence of the alleged quid-pro-quo between Mastro and PSA as it was known by PSA graders that the cards originated from Mastro.

Once cards are encapsulated by PSA with favorable grades it is highly unlikely that the cards will ever be examined in their natural state again to detect fraud.  Breaking the holder open would jeopardize the value of the commodity that PSA has already created value for.  Other notable PSA gradings of fraudulent T-206 cards include examples of the Magie, Snodgrass and Doyle error cards.  One hobbyist told us, “If PSA cant (detect) a re-back on a rarity, then how many re-backs are out there in PSA holders? Hard to believe Mastro would only send one valuable T-206 to get re-backed, especially if it worked and got into a holder.  Crooks rarely do something just once.”

Interestingly enough, the Mastro plea agreements are devoid of any mention of the bogus autographed items sold by Mastro and authenticated by PSAs Steve Grad and Jimmy Spence.  Included in that group of fraudulent material are dozens of Babe Ruth fakes created by just one forger who executed Bill Mastro’s now infamous Ruth photo inscribed to actor Gary Cooper.  Sources familiar with PSAs internal operations confirmed for HOS that the company was aware of the Ruth fakes dating back to 2000 but continued to authenticate the counterfeits and even used them in print advertisements with endorsements from Mastro auction executives (see PSA print ad above).  More recently Legendary Auctions steered away from Steve Grad and PSA/DNA and entered into an agreement with former PSA authenticator Jimmy Spence of JSA to handle the authentications for autographed items consigned to the Illinois auction house.

While the government appears to give PSA a pass in relation to its grading of the fraudulent T-206 Plank card, one former Mastro customer and victim told us that he has knowledge of PSA President Joe Orlando’s involvement in criminal activity related to a PSA-certed autographed item sold in a Mastro sale.  The big question now is whether the government will continue its investigation and examine the PSA/DNA-Mastro relationships starting with Steve Grad.  Sources at the National Convention in Cleveland reported to Hauls of Shame that Grad stormed out of the PSA booth when an FBI agent commandeered the company’s “Spectrograph” machine to examine an 1869 Peck & Snyder Red Stocking trade card temporarily confiscated from auctioneer Leon Luckey.

Collector and New York defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, who once represented John Gotti Jr., has been outspoken in his criticism of Mastro & Co. and weighed in on the plea agreements at collector forum Net54.  Adding to the speculation that PSA is in the government’s cross-hairs Lichtman said, “I’m sure Doug Allen provided all info to the federal investigators about PSA when he was cooperating” and added, “Regardless, I have no doubt Joe Orlando is more nervous than usual these days.”