Law of Cards: Letters to Judge Released in Bill Mastro Fraud Case

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.

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. Dear Paul- The bat purchased by Richard Levy in 2006 was unique in that it was the only known example from his MVP season of 1949. What Richard Levy failed to reveal to my judge after the fact is that he sold his bat in Ken Goldin’s July auction, lot #2 for over $156,000. I wonder if he’ll be so diligent as to write my judge another letter telling him to disregard his first letter? As for Mike
    Mumby who complained of possible shill bidding back in 1998, he regularly continued to purchase items in our auction up until 2008 before we closed. If he was so abused by us why keep doing business with us. Several months ago a collector and lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, who considers himself some sort of watch dog for the hobby, decided to publish my judges name and address on a popular website and encouraged collectors who thought they were ripped of to write directly to my judge. I have never met or talked with Lichtman in my whole life. I have no idea where such resentment comes from but to date my judge has received 2 letters….2! I had over 30,000 people on our mailing list and 2 people wrote letters. This is the first time I have responded to anything regarding my case with the government. It has been the most horrible ordeal me or my family have ever had to deal with and I wish people would please think hard before they try and interject their conjectures into such a sensitive matter. Bill Mastro

  2. Thank you, Bill for your response. I recognize this is an extraordinarily difficult time for you and appreciate your detailed comments about these two letters.

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