Auctioneer sentenced for cheating consignors

EASTON, Pa. – If you knew auctioneer Edward A. Verba only from his Web site, you’d be shocked at the crimes to which he has pleaded guilty. The self-proclaimed “auctioneer to the stars” was hauled away in handcuffs July 7 after admitting he cheated clients out of tens of thousands of dollars. The exact amount of the misappropriated funds has yet to be determined.

Verba, 50, was taken away after Judge Emil Giordano ordered him to spend 10 to 46 months in Northampton County Prison, followed by seven years of probation. Assistant District Attorney Constance K. Nelson had asked for a state prison term, but Giordano said a county prison sentence would allow Verba to be eligible for work release. “I wanted a state prison sentence because I saw no remorse and no plan for how he will make restitution,” Nelson told Antique Trader.

Verba had pleaded guilty May 8 in four criminal cases. Three cases involved theft by failure to make required disposition of funds from an auction. The other case involved a bad check of almost $20,000.

Attorney Douglas Jon Tkacik of Bethlehem, Pa., represented one of the clients Verba cheated. Tkacik told Antique Trader that Judge Giordano seemed especially offended when Verba mentioned a medical appointment that he wanted to keep. Representing himself, Verba told Giordano he had an appointment with a cardiac surgeon that afternoon. “Well, you’re going to miss it,” the judge said, noting that Verba should have realized he would be imprisoned immediately.

Judge Giordano set a hearing for July 28 to review the amount of restitution due. Assistant District Attorney Nelson originally set the total at $75,732.

Tkacik represented estate administrator Alfred Pierce, a Nazareth, Pa., attorney, who was acting on behalf of 11 family members. “There was farmland and, well, LOTS of stuff,” Tkacik said, referring to the family’s sale, which took place in 2004. After the sale, Verba reported gross sales had totaled $152,662. An accounting showed Verba’s figure was $47,779 short of the correct gross, and media coverage at the time of the sale seems to bear this out.

Tkacik recalled that two rare stamps were purchased for $3,000 each at the auction, and the Allentown Morning Call ran a story about the sale. But when Pierce went through the sales slips, there was no record of the stamps selling.

Tkacik said Verba stole the money, and that he appears to have no debts, because he lives in a home owned by his parents and drives a vehicle that was registered in his parents’ names. “The money is sitting somewhere,” Tkacik said. “He knows where it is.”

“The real tragedy in all this is the other two estates that were cheated,” Tkacik said. “In my client’s case, the money represents a small part of a multimillion dollar estate. But in the other cases, that money was just about everything they had.”

Court records give the following accounts: On Oct. 9, 2004, Verba conducted an estate auction for executor Susan Faust of Palmer Township, Pa. He gave her a list of items that sold for a total of $3,725. Faust reviewed the list and noted discrepancies. Assistant District Attorney Nelson said Verba shorted Faust $4,600.

Verba held subsequent auctions on Oct. 17, Oct. 24 and Dec. 13, 2005, for estate executor Patricia Babriecki. Nelson said Verba had sold items valued at $3,502, but Verba did not give her a complete account of what was sold and did not provide her with any of the cash proceeds.

COMMENT