Law of Cards: Bill Mastro To Enter Guilty Plea

Law of Cards: Bill Mastro To Enter Guilty Plea

Last summer, Bill Mastro and three other employees of Mastro Auctions were indicted on charges related to manipulating auctions and selling allegedly fraudulent or doctored sports memorabilia. Most notably, the Gretzky T-206 Honus Wagner was alleged to have been trimmed by Mastro to improve its value. This was a shocking allegation, given that the card first sold to Wayne Gretzky in 1991 for $451,000. After several subsequent sales, the card was last sold to Ken Kendrick, managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks for $2.8 million.

Mastro originally pled not guilty to these claims. However, according to case documents filed this week in the Northern District of Illinois, "William Mastro, his attorneys and the attorneys for the government have signed a written plea agreement." The contents of this plea agreement are not publicly available at this time, but according to the New York Daily News, Mastro will plead guilty to trimming the T-206.

This could be disastrous for the value of this card. It's also bad news for the sports memorabilia industry as well.

Mastro's guilty plea is the latest black eye for an industry mired in allegations of misdeeds. This plea differs, however, because it involves one of the most iconic pieces of sports memorabilia. It's the equivalent of athletes of the caliber of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens setting record after record, only to have those records potentially forever sullied with an asterisk.

The asterisk has now moved from Major League Baseball to the sports memorabilia industry. How comfortable are the Mastro's clients with their purchases now, even if they are legitimate? Similarly, when Brad Wells' FBI interview was released, it also called into question still unidentified trading cards as containing allegedly fraudulent jersey swatches. As a result, the proverbial asterisk was placed on trading cards of a certain time frame and from certain vendors.

Mastro will appear in court in February, at which time his plea will likely be made public. Many eyes in the sports memorabilia industry will be watching to see just how far the asterisk reaches.

Regardless, just as baseball's "Juiced Era" stained many famous players' names either explicitly or implicitly with the use of performance enhancing drugs, the trading card and sports memorabilia industries are going through their own "juiced" period now.

Here is a copy of the motion to change the plea date.

The information provided in Paul Lesko's "Law of Cards" column is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered in the sports industry. This information is not intended to create any legal relationship between Paul Lesko, the Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC or any attorney and the user. Neither the transmission nor receipt of these website materials will create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the readers.

The views expressed in the "Law of Cards" column are solely those of the author and are not affiliated with the Simmons Law Firm. You should not act or rely on any information in the "Law of Cards" column without seeking the advice of an attorney. The determination of whether you need legal services and your choice of a lawyer are very important matters that should not be based on websites or advertisements.

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Paul Lesko is a shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy and the chair of its Intellectual Property Department ( Don’t hold the fact that Paul is a lawyer against him, he’s also a rabid baseball and college basketball fan, and an avid baseball card collector. Paul can be found on Twitter @Paul_Lesko and Google+.

User Comments

  1. Paul, thanks again for the insight even though this makes me want to puke.

  2. 1st of all the card is extremely rare notmatter what condition its is. it had no creases and still best looking t206 wagner in world. so its value remains in the millions!!!
    2nd there will always be a vintage card hobby/ collectors want to relive their memories and u cant trimm that not even with a sword

  3. And may we know what company graded this card?

  4. Andrew G » PSA graded the card an 8. Apparently, it was the first card they ever graded.

  5. The Card is a great box all about Mastro and this card. It’s a must read for any diehard collector.

  6. Will I be entitled to any compensation for items i bought in past from mastro auctions that were proved to be shill bid uo? Dan

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