When the Bentley convertible, Steinway baby grand, fur coats, and 25 Chihuly glass pieces are auctioned off along with most of his other worldly goods this week in Palm Desert, California, Michael Mastro will be the man least likely to be there. The 86-year-old bankrupt Medina real-estate tycoon is on the lam with his 61-year-old wife.
As a getaway saga, it's a nursing-home version of Bonnie and Clyde. The two were last seen six months ago en route to Canada with the feds hot on Mastro's Testoni loafers. (A few months earlier, the old-timer had been in a coma, for godsakes). U.S. marshals missed the elderly duo by just a day or two in midsummer when they rushed into what turned out to be the Mastros' just-vacated Canadian apartment hideout.
Now the FBI has joined what is likely a worldwide search for the Mastros, known for their globetrotting skills. Even after declaring bankruptcy and as much as $570 million in debt, court records show, the couple vacationed in Italy, Switzerland, Paris, New York, and Palm Springs, plus kept up $8,000-a-month payments on a Rolls-Royce and the Bentley. (Mastro's lawyer said poor old Mike was just trying to keep his wife "happy in a difficult situation.")
Though they've lost a fortune, including an elaborate Medina mansion sold at auction for just $8 million, and owe unsecured creditors more than $275 million, Michael and Linda Mastro are still thought to be millionaire fugitives. They absconded with Linda's two diamond rings (27.8 and 15.93 carats), worth $1.5 million, which they'd been ordered to turn over to the court. They also could have stashed millions more in secret accounts prior to their getaway.
The Mastros' last reported contact was with Michael's sister, Gloria Plischke of West Seattle. He called her twice during the summer, she told The Seattle Times' Eric Pryne. "He said he would not tell me where he is," Plischke said. "I don't want to know."
In the process, the vanished Mastros stopped paying their attorneys, effectively limiting if not ending their legal challenges to the bankruptcy case, which has left some of their creditors high and dry. They're fighting over the remains of a once far-flung Mastro real-estate empire of condos, apartments, and office buildings. Investors are expecting to get back as little as one percent of the amount they put into Mastro's deals.
This week's auction will provide a small bump to the debtors' pot. The luxury items being sold off were taken from Medina and from a 4,200-square-foot California home the Mastros had been renting. James G. Murphy Co. is handling the auction, which will be live January 25 online and at the Embassy Suites in Palm Desert.
The goods are being held in a nearby storage facility in the desert, the area where the Mastros were last seen in June, supposedly packing for a return to Seattle and a court appearance. But this will be no low-rent Storage Wars, as seen on TV. Besides the Bentley, the Chihulys, the baby grand, and the five furs and one mink, the other leftovers from a swell life include a collection of luxury handbags and costly household furnishings, a queen sleigh bed and dining sets, sculptures and an ivory tusk, and assorted crystal and china, among other things.
There is also one electronic safe, presumably empty.