The true story of the man who perpetuated the first great eBay scam—or, at least, the first to get much press.
During the late 1990s, this Sacramento lawyer was pretty desperate for something to relieve the day-job tedium when Ken Fetterman, an old Marine buddy, came back into his life. A constant irritant, Fetterman had one saving grace in Walton’s eyes: He had been buying art cheap and making a profit selling it on eBay, and he was willing to show Walton how to do it. It doesn’t sound that much more thrilling than lawyering, but Walton’s eBay career apparently satisfied something in his muffled, white-collar existence. He started to spend weekends trolling estate sales and junk shops for ignored artworks that could make a moderate profit online. It helped if the paintings, almost always the work of anonymous amateurs, resembled those of better-known artists, giving Fetterman a reason to fake a signature on the canvas. Although they never out-and-out claimed that the paintings were produced by certain artists, Fetterman and Walton did everything they could to stoke buyers’ beliefs along those lines; they also used fake eBay identities to artificially inflate the bidding prices during auctions. Eventually, Walton got so good at the swindling game that he quit the law firm and started faking full-time. That’s when the FBI stepped in, looking to make an example of this outlaw of the Internet Wild West. Walton displays a refreshing lack of self-pity and even seems to admire many of the reporters hounding him for the front-page story his case became. If the dénouement is less than thrilling, it’s at least honest.
About as exciting as you could expect a story of low-end online art fraud to be.