do you know about police auctions?
June 20, 2022 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Googling isn't giving me useful results.

A few days ago, signs for a police auction went up in my area. You had to call a number to make a reservation. There was no name of any company or agency on the sign. I was very curious, made a reservation, and went to the auction.

It was held in a ballroom at a hotel. There were lots of fine art canvases, some which claimed to be by major artists. There was flashy jewelry in over-the-top styles. There were a couple of very good carpets. I don't have enough knowledge to assess authenticity of most of the stuff, but the carpet I touched looked and felt like silk to me. There was a Maserati up for auction.

The flyer that was passed out to everyone in the room, and had clauses read out loud, had a bunch of language which amounted to "we say these things are what we say they are, and we say they've been authenticated. However, we specifically disclaim any warranty or representation of authenticity or valuation. No takebacks." Again there was no name for the company running the event.

It was oppressively crowded, so I left after the first item was auctioned; I would have liked to see how the rest of it went, and who was paying what for which items, but not enough to stay. The whole thing was so strange and seedy and I'm very curious. Who runs these events? Are they traveling shows? Is any of the stuff real? &c.

Please only answer if you know.
posted by fingersandtoes to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sounds like a slight change to the "forced auction" scam. There was a pretty good post on the reddit legaladvice forum last year from someone who got sucked in. It didn't turn out so well for him; he was asking for advice about the fact that Bank of America had denied his dispute over a $15,000 charge for what turned out to be a 'silk' rug made out of Rayon.

This goes on all over the country:

Washington, DC

The Maserati was probably just a single-day rental.

In short, it's all a scam. Many of the people there were in on it, fake-bidding until the mark - that's you - makes a bid.
posted by Hatashran at 2:49 PM on June 20, 2022 [11 favorites]

It’s probably these guys; their signs appear in slightly different form all over the country.
posted by Melismata at 2:51 PM on June 20, 2022

Best answer: Just a note that the language around authenticity is common to all auctions. I believe comments referring to known scams, but auction houses as a matter of routine like to protect themselves.

Reputable auction houses will go a bit farther than others to make sure they are selling good/real stuff because they want to preserve relationships with consignors and buyers, but most of them don't have the time or money to do real authentication (of art anyway, that's my area of knowledge). I worked for a fairly reputable regional auction house for a bit and it's very much a buyer beware kind of business.

The lack of real contact info is the red flag here, not the disclaimer.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 3:19 PM on June 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Hatashran, thanks for the pointer to the Reddit thread -- that sounds like exactly the same operation, down to a suspiciously shiny silk-looking rug!

I guess the next question is how on earth are these folks allowed to keep coming back to town?! I would think the local law enforcement departments would be keeping an eye out.

Everyone can weigh in on this: should I call someone? The DA, the police? I wasn't harmed (unless I caught something nasty in that crowded room) but I think it's wrong that they're permitted to fleece people. The auction's over but I think that law enforcement should be in the room next time this circus comes to town.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:29 PM on June 20, 2022

Best answer: Legitimate sales of authentic art are not advertised by street signage. That’s the scammers’ equivalent of the intentional misspelling in scam emails - filters our anyone but high potential marks.
posted by MattD at 5:07 AM on June 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've been to a legitimate police auction before. It was for impounded cars and some taken from traffic stops or drug dealers or whatever. It was like a normal auction. I went because I really like Donks and custom racers and was curious. Lots of salvage - you couldn't bid on those unless you were a licensed junk dealer. Most cars had damage from various police searches. None were great. I would never buy anything unless I was a serious mechanic, which I am not.

Los Angeles' inventory is online: (I have not been in LA).

Official Police Garages - LA
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:07 AM on June 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Like The Vegetables, I have been to a couple of police auctions and it's full of stuff that people really steal, bikes, electronics, tools, etc. I'd be stunned if they impounded fancy rugs.
posted by advicepig at 2:23 PM on June 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

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