Legendary Auctions President and former Mastro Auctions executive Doug Allen was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison Monday morning.
Judge Ronald Guzman concurred with the recommendation filed by prosecutors last week in the long-running case against one of several Mastro officials. Under federal sentencing guidelines, they could have asked for a longer sentence but Allen’s lack of prior criminal activity factored into the decision to seek a 57-month term.
Allen, 52, pleaded guilty in 2014 to one count of mail fraud after an investigation revealed a series of deceptive practices, including shill bidding, a practice designed to inflate prices paid by bidders and to protect the interests of consignors and sellers at the expense of unwitting customers.
His sentencing comes four months after former company CEO Bill Mastro received a 20-month term for his role in illegal activity that went on at what was once a powerful force in the world of sports memorabilia.
Prosecutors say Allen used a corporate bidding account, personal accounts and accounts of employees and friends to carry out the shill bidding scheme. The activity drove many realized prices higher than they should have been.
In addition to artificially driving up prices, government prosecutors alleged that Mastro and Allen sold certain items knowing that their authenticity and condition were misrepresented to customers. Among the complaints: Allen failed to disclose alterations and caused restoration work on a rare T206 Eddie Plank card that passed authentication and sold for more than $50, 000 and ignored the results of lab testing on a purported 19th century trophy ball that was actually made at a later date.
Allen, who was president and chief operating officer of Mastro Auctions between 2001 and February 2009, was originally charged with 14 counts of wire and mail fraud. He is still listed as President and CEO of Legendary Auctions, which he formed after Mastro dissolved his business several years ago when federal agents came knocking. Legendary’s last auction was held in June of 2015.
Allen will surrender to authorities on May 9. He was also fined $20,000 but was not sentenced to any restitution.
In a pre-sentence investigation report, Allen’s attorneys asked Guzman to limit Allen’s sentence to 18 months, two less than Mastro received but government lawyers disagreed when they filed their own report last week. They say Allen tipped off another subject, believed to be business associate John Rogers, about an imminent visit from FBI investigators, putting agents at risk.
“The 18 month term requested by defendant is not appropriate and will serve to send the wrong message that defendant’s crime and his obstruction of the FBI’s investigation is not serious,” Derek Owens and Steven Dollear wrote in court papers filed last week.
Prosecutors wrote that Allen “had multiple opportunities to end the fraud but did not. Instead of stopping after he learned about the FBI investigation in 2007, defendant continued with the fraud scheme – which demonstrates little respect for the law.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Allen apologized for his actions in court Monday and hugged sobbing family members after the proceeding.
Mastro is currently in a minimum security prison camp in central Illinois. Where Allen serves his time won’t be determined until this spring.
Another Mastro executive, Mark Theotikos, is scheduled for sentencing April 27.