By Peter J. Nash
Oct. 10, 2013
(UPDATED) When he was indicted in July of 2012, Hauls of Shame reported that hobby kingpin Bill Mastro was caught on a Federal wiretap admitting he had trimmed and altered the now infamous T-206 Honus Wagner card. Today, in Federal court in Chicago, that wiretap was confirmed as Mastro plead guilty to one count of mail fraud and trimming the Wagner.
A Federal indictment described as superseding the previously-filed indictments against Bill Mastro and former Mastro employees Doug Allen and Mark Theotikos, was filed earlier this week in the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, by Assistant United States Attorneys Nancy DePodesta and Steven Dollear.
Mastro appeared in Federal court for his change of plea hearing and according to reports out of Chicago earlier today has plead guilty to the one count of mail fraud linked to shill-bidding in his auction sales. In admitting he trimmed the infamous T-206 Honus Wagner card Mastro has further tainted the hobby’s most prominent relic now owned by Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick.
The charges listed in the superseding indictment are identical to those found in original indictment filed in July of 2012, however, the new indictment does not include the names of Doug Allen, Mark Theotikos and William Boehm in the caption which now lists only Bill Mastro individually. Also missing from the new superseding indictment are numerous Grand Jury counts included at the end of the original papers charging Allen, Theotikos and Boehm with various instances of wrongdoing.
DePodesta and Dollear also filed a “Felony Designation Sheet for Criminal Proceedings” which was approved by Judge Ronald Guzman and Magistrate Judge Gilbert.
The US Attorney’s office in Chicago released Mastro’s 30-page plea agreement which states that the Feds want Mastro to serve between 57 and 60 months in prison. Part of the plea deal, unlike previous ones in front of the court, also has Mastro agreeing to cooperate with the government as its probe of the memorabilia and auction industry continues. Sources indicate that the government’s biggest target could be authentication giant Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA), the company that graded the Wagner card for Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky after they purchased it at Sotheby’s in 1991. The Wagner was the first card ever graded by the company and its founder David Hall.
Prosecutors with knowledge that Mastro had trimmed the Honus Wagner card he and partner Rob Lifson originally purchased in 1985 told Judge Guzman they could prove that Mastro altered the sides of the over-sized card with a “paper slicer.” What prosecutors discovered is what hobby-insiders have known for years–that the card was a fraud and was fraudulently sold by others like Mastro’s former MastroNet partner Lifson who also knew the card was trimmed when he sold it through Robert Edward Auctions to Brian Seigel in 2000 for over $1.2 million.
Judge Guzman asked Mastro in court if he had trimmed the card. “Are these facts true?” he asked. Mastro answered, “Yes, your honor.”
In relation to sentencing the Chicago Sun Times reported earlier today:
“His guilty plea Thursday was a case of second-time lucky for the 60-year-old Palos Park man. Judge Ronald Guzman in April rejected an earlier plea deal Mastro had agreed with prosecutors that would have capped his sentence at 2½ years.”
Kim Janssen, Federal Court reporter for the Sun Times, added, “Under the new deal, prosecutors will again ask Guzman to limit Mastro’s prison term to 30 months, but the judge’s hands will not be tied.”
The Sun Times also reported that Mastro would have to pay a $250,000 fine and “will have to cooperate in the prosecution of his alleged accomplices, Doug Allen, Mark Theotikos and William Boehm.”
Mastro responded earlier today on the blog of attorney Paul Lesko at CardBoardConnection.com in the comments section of an article Lesko published back in July regarding letters sent to the Judge in the Mastro case by collectors claiming to have been Mastro victims. Mastro said:
“Dear Paul- The bat purchased by Richard Levy in 2006 was unique in that it was the only known example from his MVP season of 1949. What Richard Levy failed to reveal to my judge after the fact is that he sold his bat in Ken Goldin’s July auction, lot #2 for over $156,000. I wonder if he’ll be so diligent as to write my judge another letter telling him to disregard his first letter? As for Mike Mumby who complained of possible shill bidding back in 1998, he regularly continued to purchase items in our auction up until 2008 before we closed. If he was so abused by us why keep doing business with us. Several months ago a collector and lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, who considers himself some sort of watch dog for the hobby, decided to publish my judges name and address on a popular website and encouraged collectors who thought they were ripped of to write directly to my judge. I have never met or talked with Lichtman in my whole life. I have no idea where such resentment comes from but to date my judge has received 2 letters….2! I had over 30,000 people on our mailing list and 2 people wrote letters. This is the first time I have responded to anything regarding my case with the government. It has been the most horrible ordeal me or my family have ever had to deal with and I wish people would please think hard before they try and interject their conjectures into such a sensitive matter. Bill Mastro”
For more coverage on the Mastro saga check out Friday’s broadcast of Cardboard Connection Radio on @BlogTalkRadio.
(This article was updated at 7PM on October 10th and at 2AM on October 11th)