FAKE: Forgery, Lies, & eBay
Kenneth Andrew Walton (born November 23, 1967) is an American software developer and author of the memoir Fake: Forgery, Lies, & eBay, which details his time spent selling forged art on the online auction site eBay. He currently lives with his wife in San Francisco, California.
In 1999 and 2000 Walton was working as an attorney in Sacramento, California, and selling art on eBay, using more than 40 online aliases to drive up bidding on hundreds of his paintings. In May 2000 he posted an auction on eBay for an oil painting that attracted a closing bid of $135,805 and which bidders speculated might be a work by Richard Diebenkorn due to its resemblance to the artist’s work, the existence of the monogram “RD52” on the canvas, and the fact that the seller claimed to have found it at a garage sale in Berkeley, where Diebenkorn had lived. In the description accompanying the auction, Walton seemed to have no knowledge of art and claimed to have no idea of the painting’s value. The auction generated international headlines and, after a series of investigative reports by Judith H. Dobrzynski in the New York Times revealed that Walton was in fact an experienced art seller who had sold several forged paintings and worked with other sellers who bid on each other’s items, Walton was banned from eBay and the FBI launched an investigation into his trading activities. In April 2001, Walton and two accomplices, Kenneth Fetterman and Scott Beach, were charged with fraud by the federal government for bidding on their own auctions, the first-ever prosecution for so-called “shill bidding” on the Internet. Walton cooperated with the prosecutors, admitted he’d forged the Richard Diebenkorn’s initials onto the painting he had auctioned on eBay, and pleaded guilty in exchange for leniency. He relinquished his law license and in 2004 he was sentenced to nine months of probation and required to pay $74,232 in restitution to victims.
After being charged, Walton went on to found the software company HammerTap, and developed DeepAnalysis, the first eBay market research application. In 2004, after eBay discovered Walton’s connection with HammerTap and refused the company permission to take eBay direct data feeds, Walton sold the company to Utah-based Bright Builders.
In April 2006 Simon Spotlight Entertainment, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, published Walton’s first book, Fake: Forgery, Lies, & eBay, a memoir of the eBay scandal and its aftermath. The book has been reviewed by The Sunday Times, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Sacramento Bee, and Publishers Weekly.