A few years ago I inherited my grandfather's stamp collection but having no philatelic knowledge, I had no idea how much it was worth and wanted to have it appraised. I came across the American Philatelic Foundation owned and directed by Mr. DuBasso which was advertised as a non-profit agency that appraised stamp collections for a small donation and since he was not a dealer he had no incentive to cheat you.
In Oct 2008, I contacted Mr. DuBasso and he requested that I take some scans of the stamps to see if it would be worth his time to appraise them. I emailed him the scans of the stamps and he replied "Looks good, the examples you sent me ran from hobby to better and I do recommend an appraisal; send the boxes to APF Appraisal Center 1337 Cordell Place L.A. CA 90069 Send using my FedEX account if you want as I can bill you for cost later, maybe deduct any cost from a sale if you decide to sell." I put the collection (over 1000 stamps divided among 10 albums) into a box and sent him the stamps.
After a short while he sent me an email with his appraisal - "Morning, finished your appraisal over the weekend. I have set aside $4500 in better items from the various albums and the balance has a value of $500 to $1000. Let me know if you wish me to place the stamps with our customer base. Sincerely, Michael DuBasso/Director APF". I then asked him how the sales process worked if I was interested in selling.
He replied, "We offer the collection to our customers or place in auction (with a reserve) We do not accept offers under our appraised value." I then told him that I was interested in selling and asked him to confirm the appraised value of the collection. He replied, "Hi, I'll start showing your collection. If successful you should get net $5000 to $6000, Thanks always, Michael." Without notice I received a check in the mail for $500.00 from the Rarities International Stamp Corporation also owned by Mr. DuBasso.
Nov 2008, I emailed Mr. DuBasso to confirm that the collection had sold and asked him if he would be paying me the rest of the money in increments of the total amount of $5000-$6000. He replied "Hi, this was for the hobby part (bulk) better items are still left, Michael." For the next 16 months, I kept emailing and calling him and he continually replied that "things are very slow, still no additional sale, will keep trying, Michael."
Without notice, I received an envelope from Mr. DuBasso containing 7 stamps one of which was a 1915 Bushire stamp that he appraised to be worth $4500 but "needs cert[ification]." I took those 7 stamps to a local stamp dealer and within minutes he determined them all to be counterfeits. He also explained to me what "needs cert" meant. Apparently there are real experts who will appraise stamps for a fee and then issue a certification which is used to ensure that stamp buyers don't get ripped off by counterfeit stamps.
I filed a claim to the BBB and his response was "I never guaranteed selling anything it is not Foundation policy. The customer is using her own words to twist it her way. Ask for all Foundation original correspondence. I am not a stamp expert and only use the basic catalog for referance. I don't have access to my correspondence but if she sends you the original appraisal there is no warantee to sell everything." Since I am not female and have a very common male name it was obvious that he was beginning to confuse me with someone else he scammed. After providing all the evidence I found that since he was an accredited BBB business they still gave him an A rating and essentially ignored my complaint.
I then filed a small claims suit for the amount of $5000 and went to court. Before the trial began he offered me a $6000 tax deduction if I donated the stamp to his non-profit agency which I declined. In court he stuck to his claim that the stamp was authentic and that if I sent the stamp to the Philatelic Foundation of NY and they certified it to be authentic he would give me the full amount he owed. I then asked for a continuance and agreed to send the stamp in for certification.
90 days later they certified that it was a counterfeit stamp and a very common one at that. He then again, even after it had been certified counterfeit, offered me the $6000 tax deduction! After speaking with IRS tax agent they notified me that it would be considered tax fraud and I would get seriously penalized if I submit a fraudulent tax deduction so we went back to court.
While preparing for court, I found that the American Philatelic Foundation entity was suspended and that Mr. DuBasso's ebay seller id was listed in the Stamp Collectors Against Dodgy Sellers Hall of Shame for selling counterfeit stamps. I went to court with the new evidence as well as his written offer of a fraudulent tax deduction and won the case.
Unfortunately, in the State of CA defendants can file an appeal with no cause and get a new case. The new trial begins in August and even if I win the second trial I am not guaranteed to be able to recover the money! But I am committed to falling this through and spreading the word so that no one else falls for his scams. I am also trying to get the DA to file criminal charges. If anyone has any information that might help, please let me know. Thanks!