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Auctioneer Gets Nearly 5 Years for Shill Bidding

A former executive of Mastro Auctions received a nearly 5-year sentence in a shill-bidding case that brought down the once renowned Chicago auction house. Doug Allen, along with William Mastro and Mark Theotikos, were indicted in 2012 on fraud charges including shill bidding.

Last year, Mastro was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison for allegedly using phony bids to fraudulently inflate the price of his company’s listings at auction. According to the FBI, “Mastro also sold phony and altered memorabilia, including a Honus Wagner baseball card whose sides Mastro had cut with a paper-slicing machine, and a purported 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings trophy ball that Mastro knew contained paint manufactured after World War II.”

In announcing Mastro’s sentencing last year, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven J. Dollear wrote, “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. 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.”

The New York Daily News said on Monday that Allen received a stiffer sentence than Mastro because Allen was charged with allegedly attempting to obstruct the FBI investigation into fraud in the sports memorabilia industry. “The government also said Allen continued to participate in the shill bidding scheme that brought down what was the industry’s most prominent auction even after Allen learned his Illinois company was under investigation.”

This New York Daily News article from 2013 claims Mastro was caught on a wiretap admitting to having altered the Wagner card. “Mastro may have spent more than 20 years threatening anyone who questioned the integrity of the 100-year-old tobacco card,” the newspaper wrote, “but several sources told the Daily News over the years that Mastro had privately admitted that he had trimmed the card after he purchased it at a Long Island card shop in 1985 for $25,000.”

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The Honus Wagner card was auctioned multiple times, including in 2000 when it sold on eBay for $1.265 million.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to