The president of a Las Vegas shop that sold former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) a bunch of autographed memorabilia told TPM on Monday she had no concerns about the authenticity of the items.
The interview took place three days after the U.S. Marshals Service pulled down an online auction of clothing and memorabilia seized during the case against Jackson for his use of campaign funds. In a press release, the Marshals Service cited “legitimate concerns about the authenticity” of at least one item that apparently came from the Las Vegas shop: a guitar purportedly signed by Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen.“I actually spoke with somebody, and I gave whomever I spoke with, who I think was with the Marshals’ office, the information as to where and when the guitar was signed and from whom it was acquired,” Toby Stoffa, president of Antiquities International, said. “So I’ve kind of already gone down that road. So I’ve handled that.”
The auction, which went live Sept. 17 on the website of Gaston & Sheehan Auctioneers, included 12 items: four pieces of clothing and eight memorabilia pieces. The Marshals Service had initially intended to auction off a 13th item, the guitar, but quietly pulled it out before the bidding began. The eight pieces of memorabilia that remained on sale until Friday included three Bruce Lee autographs and five Michael Jackson autographs.
As TPM reported last week, the Bruce Lee items came with documents known as Certificates of Authenticity (COAs), which are commonly provided in the memorabilia world as an assurance to buyers. Those certificates were signed by third-party “authenticators.” But two of the authenticators, Donald Frangipani and the Las Vegas company Authentic Autographs Unlimited (AAU), have been named in federal court papers in an unrelated case as having authenticated counterfeit memorabilia.
On Friday, the Marshals Service told TPM it would review all the items included in the auction. Speaking with TPM on Monday, Stoffa suggested that she was aware questions were being asked about at least one of the Lee autographs.
“As far as the Bruce Lee piece that was in question, I suppose — and I’m not sure who’s questioning it, because there are a lot of hobbyists who like to stir a lot of pots — but it has expert certification from AAU,” Stoffa said. “I know they mentioned the one certification that they didn’t like, but in addition to that, there was expert forensic certification by AAU. So I’m not concerned about the pieces.”
Stoffa said she had spoken with AAU, which she said was “real comfortable” that the matter had been cleared up.
Unlike the Lee items, the five Michael Jackson items that were involved in the auction did not come with third-party certificates of authenticity. Instead, they came with certificates of money-back guarantees from Stoffa’s shop.
Last week, Stoffa told TPM that she had acquired the Michael Jackson items either directly from the late singer, from his bodyguards, or from a production company that worked on a Jackson concert. On Monday, Stoffa suggested that every item from her shop is sold with third-party certification, despite the fact that none of the Jackson items in the Marshals’ auction last week apparently included them.
“Everything that I sell goes with expert certification on it, in addition to certificate of authenticity,” Stoffa said.
TPM asked Stoffa specifically about the guitar the Marshals pulled from the auction. According to a Google cache of a page on the Gaston & Sheehan Auctioneers website, the guitar was not being sold by the Marshals Service with any COAs from third-parties or from Stoffa’s shop. (Court records do indicate that Jackson Jr. purchased a “Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen guitar” from Stoffa’s shop in November 2009. The other autographs in last week’s auction all included paperwork indicating they had been purchased from Stoffa’s shop.)
TPM asked Stoffa if she had sold the guitar to Jackson Jr. without certificates of authenticity. She said that “if it didn’t have any, I don’t know if I can answer that.”
TPM asked whether the guitar came from Stoffa’s store as court records indicated.
“I don’t know that, without seeing it,” she said. “You say there’s no certification on it. If it came from my store there would have been certification on it.”
Stoffa’s story about talking to the Marshals Service about the guitar then seemed to change.
“Somebody talked to — my comptroller spoke with somebody, I believe from the Marshals office, could have been from a news office, I don’t know for sure,” Stoffa said. “But back when, when this was being investigated, and the FBI came to me, I gave them whatever I had. And that included any certifications.”
Stoffa suggested that TPM should “let the Marshals do their work.”
“I’m here for any official that needs to get information from me,” she said. “And I gave them the information as to where I got — where, if that guitar is from me, if it’s from me — I told them where I got it, from whom I got it, and the certification, which is really excellent. If it came from me.”