Bill Mastro sentenced to 20 months in federal prison

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By Ryan Cracknell | Hobby Editor

So what does a history of fraud in high-profile sports memorabilia auctions get you? For Bill Mastro, it’s 20 months in federal prison.

That was the sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman on Thursday. It could have been as much as five years but Guzman and prosecutors agreed on the lighter sentence based on Mastro helping authorities following his 2012 indictment.

In a plea agreement, Mastro admitted to driving up prices through shill bidding between 2002 and 2009. He and his associates would bid up auctions to drive prices higher.

“The long-running and systematic nature of the scheme undermines confidence in the auction house and sports-memorabilia industries, and calls into question the true value of merchandise,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven J. Dollear.  “The defendant’s ultimate goal was to beat the competition and garner more business for his auction house, and, in the end, more money for himself.”

After decades of whispers and suspicions, Mastro finally admitted to trimming the famed T206 Honus Wagner that would go on to be graded PSA 8 and sold to Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall. When Mastro sold the card in 1987, he didn’t disclose the fact that it had been altered. He was also involved in subsequent sales of the card in 1991 (to Gretzky and McNall) and 2000. Again, he didn’t given any hint about what he’d done to the card.

Also highlighted in the sentencing was an 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings ball that was sold in 2006 for $62,000. Mastro was aware that the ball had undergone testing by an earlier buyer that alleged that it had paint on it produced after WWII. Mastro failed to disclose this in the 2006 sale.

Mastro, the former head of Mastro Auctions, was once one of the most powerful people in the hobby. However, that empire came tumbling down not long after Mastro and several of his staff became subject of an FBI investigation in 2006.

In addition to the sentence, Mastro was fined $250,000.

Mastro must report to prison by November 30 so he can be available to testify against Doug Allen and Mark Theotikos, two former Mastro Auctions executives scheduled to be sentenced in October. Both have plead guilty to fraud. A fourth Mastro staffer, William Boehm received two years of probation after admitting to lying to federal investigators.

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Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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  1. Jonathan W. Iwanski 21 August, 2015 at 14:26

    I’d like to see restitution for everyone that overpaid. That would be fair. Also, this should affect prices on these cards today, mathematically.

  2. Brian Blankenburg 21 August, 2015 at 14:40

    I think the sentence was way too lenient. He should have gotten the max, I think he commited more than what was reported, but of course I have no proof. Really, I don’t think he learned a lesson yet.

  3. Curtis Payne 22 August, 2015 at 08:01

    He should have gotten life, he does not care about others why should we care about him. True Garbage!!!!

  4. Larry 22 August, 2015 at 09:29

    People still do it today, but maybe on a smaller scale. For instance, people consign their cards to a dealer to sell for them. Well since they are no longer in possession of the card, they can now bid it up. I do not buy from consignment dealers on eBay especially, look at completed items and see how much you overpay versus bidding on a card that is not consigned.

  5. JDF 23 August, 2015 at 18:11

    I see shill bidders on EBay every day….I purposely bid low on virtually everything I bid on so that when I see the scumbag shill bidder coming in, I’m out.
    I hope this guy gets throttled in prison.

  6. Sparty 23 August, 2015 at 19:07

    This is what happens when a great hobby becomes investment business. Sentence way to easy, Should have to pay everyone back also.

  7. cardopinionator 24 August, 2015 at 13:23

    Ron – Legendary Auctions has been out of business for a few years. Doug and Mark will be sentenced in October I believe. I feel sorry for Mark. I think he was a puppet to his bosses, Doug and Bill Mastro. Doug on the other hand, called the shots and masterminded the whole thing. He even tried a cover up in the face of FBI breathing down his neck. He should get more than Mastro.

  8. Nick 27 August, 2015 at 16:05

    Legendary Auctions has NOT been out of business for a few years. They had an auction in June of 2015. Since then however, there has been no auction activity that I can find.

  9. Robert Braxton 2 September, 2015 at 11:50


    If you’re new to the collectibles industry (kids) – Welcome! to the ubiquitous landscape of idiots (who in some corners are ever present) that once and often dominated this industry. PAH-THET-IQUE!! (<–that's french for 'Horrid human beings'!)

  10. chuck 21 September, 2015 at 12:10

    I mean for real with all the cheating in pro sport’s is this any different, they are lying, stealing, cheating at the highest levels. for real does anyone that collected for the last 40 years, say they didn’t see this coming.

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