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Mastro and FBI

August 19 2007 at 9:34 AM
Ron  (Login RonnieBB)

According to the Daily News the FBI is interested in another problem at Mastro Auctions
These guys are having a tough year....


There is only one Jordan

Auction jersey revealed as fraud

BY MICHAEL O'KEEFFE
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Sunday, August 19th 2007, 4:00 AM

It was a hell of a party, according to the press release issued by Mastro Auctions. About 300 sports collectible movers and shakers, many in town for the National Sports Collectors Convention, bid on 83 coveted pieces at Mastro's inaugural live auction, held Aug. 3 at the House of Blues in Cleveland.

A collection of rare T215 Pirate cigarette cards sold for $960,000, a record for a set of cards. Yankee manager Miller Huggins' 1927 World Series ring went for $204,000. One collector even spent $192,000 on a T206 Honus Wagner card in poor condition. But the event wasn't just about conspicuous consumption; Mastro Auctions also raised $20,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

"It's a terrific exclamation point to an already spectacular evening," Mastro Auctions president Doug Allen said in the press release.

The hangover from the event, however, just won't go away. One item, advertised as a Michael Jordan North Carolina warm-up shirt, sold for $11,000 even though questions had been raised about its authenticity well before the auction took place. Collectors cried foul on Game-Used Forum.com, a memorabilia Web site, and began investigating the shirt. Mastro Auctions voided the sale and sent the jersey back to the authentication service that raised the initial doubts for further review.

But the controversy over the "Jordan" shirt appears far from over: It has added new pressure to calls for greater regulation and standards for the dog-eat-dog world of sports memorabilia. The shirt has also attracted the interest of the FBI, which as the Daily News reported last month, has already begun an investigation into business practices at Mastro Auctions, sports memorabilia's largest auction house.

To prepare for the live auction, Mastro employees sent the shirt and other items to Memorabilia Evaluation and Research Services, one of the hobby's leading authentication services. MEARS examined the shirt on July 1, and concluded that while it appeared to be a North Carolina shooting shirt from the 1980s, it did not belong to Jordan.

When the shirt was placed over a light table, it was apparent that another name had been removed from the back and replaced with "JORDAN." The letters also seemed to be made of different materials than other patches on the piece, according to the MEARS work sheet.

"The Michael Jordan shirt we evaluated did not start its life as a Michael Jordan shirt," MEARS authenticator Troy Kinunen said.

MEARS' opinion was seconded by the University of North Carolina; officials there told the Daily News that Jordan still has his warm-up shirt.

Mastro Auctions, however, submitted the shirt to another authenticator, Lou Lampson; the auction catalogue said the shirt was accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Lampson but made no mention of MEARS' evaluation or opinion. In the days before the auction, Game-Used Forum members posted numerous comments about the conflicting opinions; one member said he E-mailed Mastro's Allen about the jersey but Allen did not respond. The shirt received seven bids and sold for $11,000, according to Mastro Auctions Web site.

"If Mastro did not inform the winning bidder of MEARS' findings, then, that is damn shady," one forum member wrote.

A week after the auction, another Game-Used Forum member said he had been contacted by an ACC basketball fan who said stains on the "Jordan" shirt looked remarkably similar to stains on a shirt he owned for several years. The ACC fan, a collector named Jim Reed, told the Daily News he had purchased the shirt from Ranzino Smith, who joined the Tar Heels in 1985, the year after Jordan left school and was drafted by the Chicago Bulls.

Reed said he sold the shirt to Eric Inselberg, a New Jersey dealer/collector, late last year, but he is convinced it is the same item Mastro sold this month. "This thing was in my display room for three years," Reed said. "I know my shirt."

Inselberg told the News he sold the shirt at a Westchester memorabilia show in January. Inselberg claimed he didn't know the buyer and since the buyer paid cash, he had no way to contact him.

Allen told the Daily News before the auction that he was not aware that MEARS had doubts about the jersey; he did not return calls last week. But in an e-mail to Kinunen that was posted on the Game-Used Forum, he said Inselberg was not the consigner. The shirt was one of the last items sent to MEARS and Allen blamed deadline pressures for the screw-up.

"I had gotten the message from my guys that you 'were not comfortable signing off on it' so I told them to go ahead and run it with the Lou Lampson letter since he was comfortable issuing an LOA on the shirt. Unfortunately we never received your 'letter' which explained the details of the name change and the reason you were not comfortable opining on the shirt. If I had known this I would have immediately pulled it from the auction," Allen wrote.

"The first time I had been informed about potential issues with the shirt was on August 2nd when a reporter inquired about the letter you issued. At the time I was not aware a letter detailing findings had been issued and I notified him of that fact. When I got back to the office after the National I was finally able to review your letter and review the concerns expressed on the Game-Used Forum."

But by the time Allen's E-mail had been posted on the Game-Used Forum, the FBI had already begun investigating the sale of the jersey. The bureau's Chicago office - whose "Operation Foul Ball" smashed a multistate autograph forgery ring in the '90s - has already interviewed an authentication-service executive and two collectors about the jersey, according to sources.

As the Daily News reported in July, Chicago-based investigators have already questioned Bill Brandt, the president of Development Specialists Inc., the company hired by the state of Ohio to liquidate coins and collectibles purchased with state money by Tom Noe, the Republican Party official convicted last year of stealing from a $50 million workers compensation fund and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Noe had purchased thousands of dollars worth of memorabilia from Mastro, Brandt and Ohio law-enforcement officials have said. The investigators have also questioned two hobby executives who asked not to be identified.

An FBI official said he could not confirm or deny an investigation is underway, but regardless of what happens, the incident has left a bad taste in some collectors' mouths.

"I saw this warm-up at the National and thought it was awesome," one collector wrote on the Game-Used Forum. "I was gonna have a friend bid on it for me ... thank goodness that I didn't."

 
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AuthorReply

leon
(Premier Login leonl)
Forum Owner

another feather in Mastro's cap

August 19 2007, 9:49 AM 

Once again they did the right thing by pulling an auction item...Kudos for them....Doug is a class act and honest person and this once again proves it....thanks again for posting the article.... I knew that NY Daily News and Michael O'keefe, would do the right thing and print good stuff too .....

edited mainly grammar


    
This message has been edited by leonl on Aug 19, 2007 9:52 AM


 
 

Jeff Lichtman
(Login calvindog)

Re: Mastro and FBI

August 19 2007, 9:55 AM 

So this is a positive Mastro article? Um, ok.

 
 
Ron
(Login RonnieBB)

Re: Mastro and FBI

August 19 2007, 9:55 AM 

Leon

Did you read something I didn't?

MEARS saw a name change on a light table. Lou Lampson obviously didn't see a name change meaning he did not closely examine the shirt. People bid on an item that had an LOA by someone who didn't do a thorough job of examining it.

I think he did the wrong thing. Mears wasn't comfortable signing off on the Jordan, so he gave it to Lampson who did. Sorry, but that doesn't make it a good shirt.

Ron



 
 

leon
(Premier Login leonl)
Forum Owner

Ron......

August 19 2007, 10:09 AM 

First of all what is your last name? If you don't want to post it then you shouldn't be posting on this board about these kinds of things. The reason is, is that we need to know who posts stuff in these kind of situations. As I said in my email to you a little while ago AND YOU DIDN'T respond to it is for the protection of the whole board. If someone came on spouting stuff about you or posting articles I would do the same for you. So, your last name please?

Also, in my eyes this says it all:

"Mastro Auctions voided the sale and sent the jersey back to the authentication service that raised the initial doubts for further review."

thanks again for posting the aricle....

 
 

Joe D.
(Login bijoem)

I can't believe we are going to

August 19 2007, 10:14 AM 

once again have a 'Daily News' article as the basis of a discussion.

I am still reeling from the revelation in the prior thread that Jeff gets it delivered

 
 
Jim Dale
(Login netjr)

Nothing New

August 19 2007, 10:15 AM 

Its getting kind of obvious this writer for the news does not like Mastro and wants to pin something on them. I also fund the underlying dig to a former "republican" in nearly every of his articles intriguing. I'm shocked he didn't get the Rudi Guliani connection (former lawyer) into this one...shameful.

 
 

Jeff Lichtman
(Login calvindog)

Re: Mastro and FBI

August 19 2007, 10:25 AM 

I think the moral to this story is that you might have to be a bit crazy to bid on game-used or autographed artifacts. Too much opportunity for fraud.

 
 
Ron Bristow
(Login RonnieBB)

Re: Mastro and FBI

August 19 2007, 10:26 AM 

Sorry for not including my last name with my opinion. My name is Ron Bristow.

Leon, I just wrote you back. I never got an email from you before today. Sorry for the confusion.
Ron

 
 
brian
(Login brian1martin)

authentication

August 19 2007, 11:33 AM 

if you send a questionable item to enough authenticators, it's likely that eventually someone will deem it authentic.

my name is Brian Martin and I live in Hillsdale, Michigan

 
 

leon
(Premier Login leonl)
Forum Owner

Ron

August 19 2007, 11:51 AM 

Thanks for your understanding...and I will second what others have said in this thread concerning O'keefe's reporting concerning Mastro and the autograph and game used market/hobby....Too much of a leap of faith for myself....though I am sure there is a big audience for this form of collecting.....Whatever makes you happy and keeps you out of bars at night.....

 
 

Joseph Jesselli
(Login base_ball)

Re: Mastro and FBI

August 19 2007, 12:01 PM 

another feather in Mastro's cap

Leon, you should apply for Tony Snow's job. But I still love ya.

 
 

Jeff Lichtman
(Login calvindog)

Re: Mastro and FBI

August 19 2007, 1:08 PM 

Did O'Keefe remove the letters from the back of the warmup jacket and put Jordan's name there? Was O'Keefe the Mastro employee who sent the jacket to MEARS but apparently didn't tell Doug that it had come back as questionable? Damn that O'Keefe -- he really has it in for Mastro!

 
 

leon
(Premier Login leonl)
Forum Owner

Jeff

August 19 2007, 1:12 PM 

and was O'keefe the one who voided the sale? Of course O'keefe doesn't have it in for Mastro...You really nailed that one..

 
 
barrysloate
(Login barrysloate)

Mastro and FBI

August 19 2007, 1:19 PM 

If you read "The Card" you will find that Mastro and O'Keeffe didn't like each other one bit, and Bill stopped talking to him during the process. So I do think O'Keeffe is making sure he gets the last word.

 
 

Jeff Lichtman
(Login calvindog)

Re: Mastro and FBI

August 19 2007, 1:21 PM 

Leon, unlike you, I'm capable of being objective. Wow -- Mastro voided the sale after the s&**& hit the fan -- but how is it that Doug had the warmup sent to MEARS, had it come back questionable, then sent it to another authenticator that blessed it and yet he failed to supply the MEARS conclusion in its listing -- and even claimed he was unaware that MEARS had even been sent the warmup by his own company? And keep in mind that I like Doug and am trying to be fair here (I'm the one that posted the Mastro court win out here, recall?). But being fair sometimes means you have to call a spade a spade - which you are just unwilling to do whenever it comes to Mastro. You even went so far to call the news reported in this article as a "feather in the cap" of Mastro! So which is it -- is O'Keefe's reporting of the latest Mastro debacle (which comes about once a week now it seems) a feather in the cap for Mastro or more shoddy reporting?

 
 

Dan Bretta
(Login slidekellyslide)
Network 54 Moderator

Re: Mastro and FBI

August 19 2007, 1:26 PM 



    
This message has been edited by slidekellyslide on Aug 19, 2007 1:31 PM


 
 
Tim Newcomb
(Login timn1)

Objectivity?

August 19 2007, 1:28 PM 

I doubt I speak only for myself when I say I don't hear much objectivity from Jeff or Leon on this issue. It's pretty clear that each of you has a distinct point of view (expressed now in many different threads), and that both of these positions have at least some merit.

I suggest (obviously only a suggestion) that since we have seen these exchanges many times before, that you two guys call a moratorium on Mastro for a little while, and see where this thread goes with other posters.

 
 

leon
(Premier Login leonl)
Forum Owner

Jeff

August 19 2007, 1:34 PM 

I have no issue calling Mastro out on something if they did something wrong. It just gets old when we continually see the same person reporting the same kind of crap....and there really isn't ever a smoking gun or bad ending. On this issue it seems to me that Mastro realized they made a mistake and voided the transaction...Whether that mistake should have been known earlier is debatable....According to the story it looks as though O'keefe reported that Doug said he didn't see a letter or email. I believe him.....If this forum helps keep everyone honest then that is a good thing....I just wish it wasn't always the same ole people jumping on the bandwagon....and yes, I do over compensate on purpose because it's always the same crap the other way....

 
 
barrysloate
(Login barrysloate)

Mastro and FBI

August 19 2007, 1:34 PM 

Collectors are becoming very sensitive to issues where there is the appearance of large auction houses having their way with graders and authenticators. Any time one of these topics comes up it is going to ruffle some feathers.

 
 
 
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