Action 9 undercover investigation exposes auctioneers behind risky sales

Action 9 undercover investigation exposes auctioneers behind risky sales

ORLANDO, Fla. — Action 9 investigates traveling auctioneers who claim they're selling art and jewelry seized by police at incredible savings, but some buyers claim the confiscated pieces were just the bait to auction off overpriced art.

Action 9's Todd Ulrich took a hidden camera to the auction and confronted auctioneers who have a controversial history.

It's advertised as a seized assets auction.  But Sue McDonald went to the Ocala event and said only a couple paintings were confiscated by police out of a few hundred for sale.

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Todd Ulrich asked, “How much did you spend?”

“Forty-two thousand dollars,” replied McDonald.

She bought an oil painting and three lithographs.

But later, McDonald's family researched online the appraised value of what she bought and it was far less than what she paid.

That same auction went to Keene's Point, an exclusive Windermere community where Ulrich showed up with a hidden camera.

Out of 200 pieces of art and jewelry, only two were identified as FBI seizures during a three-hour auction.

Ulrich confronted auctioneer Adam Levinsohn about those seized assets.

“What other pieces were there?” asked Ulrich.

“Several pieces in the room,” said Levinsohn.

“Why weren't you selling them?” asked Ulrich.

“Because they were never requested, sir,” replied Levinsohn.

Levinsohn was forced to surrender his North Carolina auctioneer's license for misleading ads.

“You didn't sell any seized assets here today did you?” asked Ulrich.

“Not me personally, but I'm sure Gavin did,” said Levinsohn.

Auctioneer Gavin Abadi was there, too.  Florida suspended his license in 2009 for misleading or false auction ads and fined him again in 2010 for bad record keeping.

Appraisal experts Action 9 talked to say many traveling auctioneers use "seized assets" as bait then seduce buyers with overrated and inflated artwork.

Ulrich asked, “Are you counting on people not knowing what they're buying?”

“No, no. That is not correct. Any customer who is not satisfied we take back their pieces anyway,” said Levinsohn.

After McDonald complained, the auctioneers took back all the art and erased her charges.

Later, Abadi told Action 9 he has over a 1,000 loyal customers and only 30 have been unhappy.