The FBI said that fake Elvis Presley hair, an altered Honus Wagner card and a bogus Cincinnati Red Stockings trophy baseball from 1869 were the center of an investigation that helped hand down a 16-count indictment against a Palos Park man and his former associates.
According to an FBI news release, Palos Park’s William Mastro, a former owner of a memorabilia business, Crete’s Doug Allen and Addison’s Mark Theitikos were indicted Wednesday on fraud charges for a series of deceptive practices.
The indictment said Mastro Auctions defrauded customers in the 2000s in various ways. It said a Honus Wagner T-206 card was altered with cuts on the sides. If disclosed, it would have “significantly reduced the value of the card” according to the release.
The Wagner card is considered the most expensive trading card and one of them sold for more than $2 million, according to an Associated Press report from 2007.
Mastro and Allen allegedly sold items knowing that their authenticity and condition were misrepresented to customers, including purported hair of Elvis Presley and a purported 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings trophy baseball.
Attempts to reach Mastro were unsuccessful.
Mastro, 59, owned Mastro Auctions until 2004 and was its chairman and chief executive officer from 1996 until February 2009. He was charged with one count of mail fraud.
Allen, 49, was president and chief operating officer of Mastro Auctions between 2001 and February 2009 and was charged with 14 counts of wire and mail fraud. Theotikos, 51, was employed by Mastro Auctions between 1996 and February 2009 as vice president of auction operations and, later, vice president of acquisitions. He was charged with six counts of wire and mail fraud. The company was also accused of rigging auctions.
“Consumers might be lured to the auction market for sports memorabilia and other collectibles by an emotional attachment to an item or purely as a calculated investment, but, as the allegations in this case demonstrate, bidders must remain mindful of the maxim ‘Buyer Beware,’ ” said Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Gary S. Shapiro in a statement. “Consumers have a right to be protected from deceptive and dishonest sales practices, and we will prosecute those who fraudulently rig auctions at the expense of bidders as the indictment alleges in this case.”
Among the findings between 2001 and 2009 was an alleged misrepresentation of the authenticity of Elvis Presley’s hair.
According to the FBI release, in April 2003, Mastro Auctions sold hair purportedly off Presley's head.
The buyers returned the hair with the results of DNA testing, which called its authenticity into question. In June 2004, Allen refunded the money.
In December 2005, August 2006, April 2007, and August 2008, Allen again sold portions of the fake Presley strands. Each time, he allegedly made false representations in catalogs calling the King's hair "bona fide" or sold with "documents attesting to the veracity" without disclosing the results of the DNA testing.
Mastro, Allen, and Theotikos will be arraigned at a future date in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
According to the release, each count of mail and wire fraud against Mastro, Allen, and Theotikos carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine and restitution is mandatory. The court may also impose a fine totaling twice the loss to any victim or twice the gain to the defendant, whichever is greater.