Law of Cards: Recent Filings Give Insight into Upcoming William Boehm Trial
During the summer of 2012, the government brought actions against Bill Mastro, Doug Allen, Mark Theotikos and William Boehm for their involvement with the alleged fraudulent activities of Mastro Auctions. Two years later, we're down to just one defendant and we're getting ready for a trial.
Mastro plead guilty last year. Last week, Theotikos changed his plea to guilty, as did Allen this week.
This leaves only Boehm, whose trial date is September 8.
Inside the Boehm Trial
A slew of new filings give insight into the Boehm trial.
The first filing of interest is both sides' witness list. Boehm's list identifies three potential witnesses: William Boehm, Carolyn Boehm and Frank Di Roberto.
The prosecution's list is longer, with eleven: Special Agents Brian Brusokas, Trent Koplinksi and Kristen Mulder, along with Peter Albert, Frank DiRoberto, Cliff Kekelik, Michael Labriola, Robert Lifson, Brian Marren, William Mastro and Walter Tomala.
Yes—Bill Mastro is a potential witness for the prosecution.
A second document filed last week by the government highlights what it believes the evidence and testimony will show. This document provides detailed explanations of how Boehm (along with Mastro, Allen, Theotikos, "Co-Schemer A," other auction house employees, and still "others") allegedly defrauded auction house customers by engaging in shill bidding between 2001 and February 2009.
To show this at trial, the government will rely upon evidence including the "expected witness testimony from co-defendant William Mastro, who is cooperating with the government in hopes of receiving a reduced sentence, and former Mastro Auctions employees, Brian Marren and Walter Tomala, both who received immunity from prosecution in exchange for their complete and truthful cooperation."
The most interesting sections of the government's filing has to do with the expected testimony of Mastro and Marren.
The Potential Testimony of Bill Mastro
Mastro "is expected to testify" that he placed fictitious bids to artificially inflate items' prices, and…
…that he spoke to defendant Boehm and told him that he needed a 'dead paddle,' a paddle associated with an inactive account, which he could use in order to place shill bids. After co-defendant Mastro told defendant Boehm what he needed, defendant Boehm told Mastro that he could use the account of Individual F.D., who was a friend of defendant Boehm’s. Indeed, co-defendant Mastro used the account of Individual F.D. so frequently that individuals at the Auction House joked about its use.
This testimony will apparently show Boehm's involvement in the alleged conspiracy.
Boehm's involvement, however, was not allegedly limited to creating a "dead paddle"; he also is alleged to have helped cover up the conspiracy. Mastro is expected to testify that in 2003, he felt embarrassed about his frequent use of the F.D. account, so, to conceal the shill bids associated with it, he asked "Boehm to destroy all Auction House underbidder records associated with the F.D. account" and to "maintain all historical and future winning bid information, but delete all historical and future underbidder records for all accounts." In response, Boehm allegedly told Mastro that he would be able to fulfill his request, and allegedly did destroy such records. According to the government's filing:
Mastro will testify that, during a telephone call which occurred after defendant Boehm was interviewed by the FBI, defendant Boehm told Mastro not to worry because he took care of it. Boehm also told Mastro that he told the FBI that the bidding records were in a landfill.
Testimony of Brian Marren
According to the government's brief, Marren will also testify about Boehm's destruction of records and communications with the FBI. Marren is expected to testify that…
…in about August or September 2008, shortly before resigning from Mastro Auctions and after hearing that the FBI had interviewed defendant Boehm, Marren had a conversation with defendant Boehm regarding the Mastro Auctions bidding records. Marren will testify that they specifically discussed the ongoing investigation of Mastro Auctions being conducted by the FBI. During the conversation, defendant Boehm told Marren words to the effect of, “I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” When Marren asked defendant Boehm to provide him with access to the bidding records, defendant Boehm told Marren that the old bidding records were in a landfill since Mastro replaced the computer system several years ago.
The government's document continues with descriptions of additional evidence and purported witness testimony (e.g., there's a good explanation of what Walter Tomala's expected testimony as well). If you want to check it out, click here.
The picture painted by the prosecution makes its case look strong. However, we have not seen Boehm's side. Considering he's still fighting, he might have evidence to refute the government's contentions, or might be able to pick apart the government's witnesses. After all, it's the government's burden to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Given this, Boehm only needs to (theoretically) shoot down the government's evidence.
For example, from the above, it looks like quite a bit of the government's testimony relies upon Mastro, who appears to have given Boehm instructions on how to further the conspiracy. By testifying for the government, Mastro is looking for leniency. However, Boehm's counsel could potentially portray Mastro as the shot-caller that brought him into the alleged conspiracy who is now only trying to save his skin. A conflicted motive like this could discredit Mastro's testimony, which could help Boehm in the eyes of the jury.
It's all speculation at this point, but we're going to trial in a few weeks. Barring a last-minute deal, it could be a very interesting September.
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