Auctioneer Punished for Tipping Off John Rogers

A 1951 photo of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, once part of the Boston Herald archive purchased by John Rogers (inset), marked DiMaggio’s last season with the New York Yankees and Mantle’s first.
A 1951 photo of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, once part of the Boston Herald archive purchased by John Rogers (inset), marked DiMaggio’s last season with the New York Yankees and Mantle’s first.

Alleged serial fraudsters trying to gain favor as FBI informants don’t make for reliable confidants.

That maxim was driven home earlier this month when Doug Allen received a stiffer sentence because of a March 2014 conversation with John Rogers, who was wearing a wire.

The recording captures Rogers baiting the former big-time auctioneer into talking about things that cost him dearly in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Allen talked about how his negotiated guilty plea to one count of mail fraud would be severely screwed if the FBI knew he had tipped off Rogers in the past. He was right.

Previous friendly advance warnings to Rogers about wearing a wire and the raid two months earlier on his North Little Rock business and home didn’t play well with the feds.

“He made a fatal error in judgment that he deeply regrets and for which he apologized in person to the government,” Valarie Hays, Allen’s lawyer, told the court.

She added that due to the guilt Allen “felt for wiring up on a friend who was being investigated by the government, he told the friend about certain topics the government was investigating and that he was wearing a recording device. After government counsel learned about his disclosures, [Allen] justifiably lost his anticipated 50 percent off cooperation deal, and his conduct will undoubtedly increase his sentence.”

Allen was sentenced to 57 months in prison on Feb. 8 in part for obstructing a criminal investigation of Rogers. Allen’s attorney requested 18 months, a sentence slightly less than William Mastro, who allegedly orchestrated the crimes that Allen participated in during his 2001-09 tenure at Mastro Auctions.

Allen was originally indicted in July 2012 on 14 counts of mail and wire fraud connected with shill bidding and memorabilia fraud, along with three other Mastro staffers.

Some familiar names surfaced in court filings regarding the shill bidding scheme at Mastro.

Keith Olbermann, former ESPN sportscaster turned political commenter, and New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner were listed among those who paid higher prices for auctioned sports memor-abilia items because of the scheme. The same goes for Mark Roberts, a San Franciso collector and the first person to sue John Rogers for fraud.

Allen was a partner with Rogers in Legendary Auctions, formed after Mastro Auctions closed in 2009 under the cloud of the FBI investigation.

He joins a line of former business associates, investors and creditors with grievances about misplaced trust in Rogers and financial claims topping $48 million.

The roster of plaintiffs suing Rogers stretches beyond Arkansas west to Texas, Colorado, Utah, California, New Zealand and Australia while extending north and east to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

While the criminal investigation of Rogers proceeds, his creditors continue to sort through the corporate chaos left in his wake.

First Arkansas Bank & Trust of Jacksonville has staked a priority claim to what’s left of eight photo collections and six publication photo archives. The assets represent about 8 million scans and 4 million prints, according to Michael McAfee, court-appointed receiver of the Rogers assets.

Sources indicate the most valuable pieces and, in some cases, large chunks of an archive or collection were sold by Rogers years ago.

Details are available on the acquisition of some of the collections and archives. The price tags often don’t match what Rogers publicly claimed to have paid or what he privately told investors.

In a May 2010 interview with Arkansas Business, Rogers said he looked at the Boston Herald archive but declined to pursue a deal because the archive was rather picked over.

A year later in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Rogers announced he had purchased the Boston Herald photo archives. He claimed to have paid a whopping price for it: Between $4 million and $5 million.

The actual price has yet to surface. But other photo assets sought by First Arkansas have:

  • Sport magazine, purchased in spring 2009 for $600,000;
  • Chicago Sun-Times, bought in November 2009 for $900,000;
  • Sporting News, acquired in July 2010 as part of a $1 million deal that included other photo assets;
  • St. Petersburg Times, purchased in spring 2011 for $300,000;
  • Boston Herald, bought in April 2011; and
  • Seattle Times, acquired in June 2011 for $150,000.

Eight collections sought by First Arkansas include the:

  • Barney Stein Collection;
  • Don Wingfield Collection;
  • Penske (Nascar), purchased in April 2010 for $35,000;
  • A collection referred to only as “Spring Training”;
  • NFL original negatives;
  • Dixie Knight negative collection;
  • George Michael Sports Machine Library; and
  • Keystone Press Collection, 300,000 photos bought in October 2011 along with 1.2 million negatives from the Oakland Tribune in a deal with Zuma Press. No money changed hands. Zuma received a digitized photo library, and Rogers received ownership of the photos and negatives.

The photo collections and archives are stored at the former Rogers Photo Archives at 2401 Poplar St. and 115 E. 24th St. in North Little Rock.

Centennial Bank of Conway took ownership of the 29,190-SF office-warehouse complex, which includes the vacant 2501 Poplar St. warehouse, in December at a $1.47 million foreclosure auction.

To date, First Arkansas has collected $34,350 toward its default judgments against Rogers and his ventures. The tally owed to the bank has grown from $15.2 million to more than $16.4 million as of Jan. 31.

The bank landed a default judgment against Rogers personally in January 2015 and a default judgment against Sports Cards Plus Inc., Planet Giant LLC and Digital Stock Planet LLC in April 2015.