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Originally published July 1, 2014 at 7:52 PM | Page modified July 2, 2014 at 6:37 PM

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Mastro jewelry to glitter on online auction

If you missed the clothes and accessories auctioned off last week by the trustee in Michael Mastro’s bankruptcy, you have another chance starting Thursday, as nearly 300 pieces of jewelry seized from the fugitive Seattle real-estate developer and his wife are auctioned online.


Seattle Times business reporter

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If you missed the Chanel handbags, Louis Vuitton luggage and Manolo Blahnik shoes in the Mastro auction last week, don’t worry — you have another chance.

Nearly 300 pieces of jewelry seized in France in 2012 from fugitive Seattle real-estate developer Michael Mastro and his wife will be auctioned online between Thursday and July 17 on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Maybe an 18-carat white gold Rolex Daytona wristwatch encrusted with almost 100 diamonds and 36 sapphires on a leopard-print alligator strap? Similar Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona-style Rolex watches cost upward of $15,000.

Or perhaps a 14-carat, white-gold-ribbon plate ring with one 0.65-carat diamond at the center and other diamonds totaling about ¾-carat around it.

Along with the diamond and pearl rings, gold earrings and vintage watches, the collection’s more unusual pieces include a diamond-encrusted brooch in the shape of a lizard with a pearl head, and an 18-carat, yellow-gold diamond-encrusted bracelet in the shape of a cat with emerald eyes.

There are also less-expensive items made of sterling silver and diamond look-alike cubic zirconia, as well as some faux Chopard and Cartier watches — which still run a couple hundred apiece.

The auction site is www.txauction.com.

“I’m not making any predictions about how much the jewelry will bring in — beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” bankruptcy trustee James Rigby said of the latest auction. “It just depends how much everything goes for. I really wasn’t expecting an online auction, so we’ll see.”

The jewelry being auctioned does not include the two giant diamond rings — the 27.9-carat pear-shaped and the 15.93-carat round — that Rigby took control of last year.

The larger of those two diamonds was sold for $1 million last month, and Rigby says he hopes to sell the smaller for another million.

Last year, he estimated the total value of all the jewelry — including the two rings — at roughly $3 million.

Unlike the two giant rings, the lot of jewelry being auctioned off by the U.S. Marshals Service is controlled by the Justice Department. The FBI seized all the jewelry out of two safe-deposit boxes in France, but Rigby only had a claim to the diamond rings because they were already part of the bankruptcy case.

Because the Department of Justice controls the rest of the jewelry, Rigby said he doesn’t know how the money will be distributed.

He said he thinks the government will use about $30,000 of the proceeds to pay off the expenses the FBI incurred when agents went to France to seize the Mastros’ belongings.

He expects the rest to be turned over to him for the bankruptcy estate.

To date, Rigby said, he has recovered an estimated $22 million, which includes $341,000 from a 2012 auction in California of some Mastro household items and a 2007 Bentley convertible that fetches $92,500.

Last week’s auction of designer handbags and jackets, held in Kenmore, brought in roughly $70,000.

However, Rigby said more than $10 million has been spent in legal fees — the bulk of which would have gone to the creditors if the Mastros had cooperated from the beginning, he said.

Michael Mastro was a Seattle real-estate developer and lender for 40 years until the 2008 crash unraveled his heavily leveraged business. Three banks forced him into bankruptcy in 2009, and he owed about $250 million to creditors.

In 2011, he and his wife ignored a bankruptcy judge’s order to turn over the two giant diamond rings, and the couple fled to France. A federal grand jury in Seattle indicted the Mastros on charges of bankruptcy fraud and money laundering after they disappeared.

The couple were arrested in France in 2012 but freed after a French court last year denied the Department of Justice’s request to extradite them.

Information from The Seattle Times archive was used in this report. Coral Garnick: 206-464-2422 or cgarnick@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @coralgarnick



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