Law of Cards: Letters to Judge Released in Bill Mastro Fraud Case
Last April, the judge presiding over the Bill Mastro criminal matter rejected a 30-month maximum sentence for Mastro's role in allegedly manipulating auctions and doctoring sports memorabilia. As we previously reported, during that hearing the judge read a letter to the parties that he had received in the mail that week. The letter contained allegations of additional wrongdoings by Mastro that the author wanted to bring to the judge's attention.
The judge made clear during the hearing that he rejected the proposed 30-month maximum sentence for prior reasons he had given, and not because of the letter. However, he wanted the parties to have a copy of the letter.
At the time, the letter was not placed on the public record. It finally appeared in the record this week. If you wish to read it, click here.
The letter was written by Richard Levy who suspected he was a victim of Mastro Auctions. In December 2006, Levy won a Mastro Auction for a Jackie Robinson bat, in which he paid $98,827 ($82,356 as the winning bid plus a 20% buyer's premium). Concerns arose when Levy determined that Jackie Robinson bats similar to his sold more between the range of $38,000 to $86,000. Because of the higher price, he believed he might have been the victim of shill bidding.
Levy's letter did not contain any direct evidence of shill bidding, but he was concerned enough to bring this to the court's attention.
A second, more recent letter also appeared on the docket this week. This one, from a Michael Mumby, raised concerns over an auction of $10,000 worth of photographs that he bought. Or won. Or, ugh. I've read this letter half a dozen times, and I'm not sure really what it alleges. Click here if you think you can interpret it better than me.
Amusingly, Mumby's letter included quotes from Clifford Odets ("truthful success") and George Plunkett ("He seen his opportunities, and he took 'em"), so it's good for sound bites, but as for actual allegations of wrongdoings…I'm not sure what's there.
Now, letters like this are not evidence. Unless the government contacts these individuals and conducts a further investigation, they will not be a part of the trial, also.
Legal translation: It is up to the prosecution to make the case against Bill Mastro…not third parties or the judge. If the letter writers wanted to really help the prosecution, they should have contacted them…not the judge.
So, while the letters are interesting, it's unclear if they will have any effect on the Mastro case.
The take home is, if you want to be a part of a trial, you need to talk to the right people -- the prosecutors.
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