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Fake: Forgery, Lies, & eBay [Hardcover]

Kenneth Walton
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 25, 2006
It was the golden age of eBay. Optimistic bidders went online to the world's largest flea market in droves, ready to spend cash on everything from garden gnomes to Mercedes convertibles. Among them were art collectors willing to spend big money on unseen paintings, hoping to buy valuable pieces of art at below-market prices. EBay also attracted the occasional con artist unable to resist the temptation of abusing a system that prided itself on being "based on trust." Kenneth Walton -- once a lawyer bound by the ethics of his profession to uphold the law -- was seduced by just such a con artist and, eventually, became one himself.

Ripped from the headlines of the New York Times, the first newspaper to break the story, Fake describes Walton's innocent beginnings as an online art-trading hobbyist and details the downward spiral of greed that ultimately led to his federal felony conviction. What started out as a satisfying exercise in reselling thrift store paintings for a profit in order to pay back student loans and mounting credit card debt soon became a fierce addiction to the subtle deception of luring unsuspecting bidders into overpaying for paintings of questionable origins.

In a landscape peopled with colorful eccentrics hoping to score museum-quality paintings at bargain prices, Walton entered into a partnership with Ken Fetterman, an unslick (yet somehow very effective) con man. Over the course of eighteen months they managed to take in hundreds of thousands of dollars by selling forged paintings and bidding on their own auctions to drive up the prices. When their deception was discovered and made international headlines, Walton found himself stalked by reporters and federal agents while Fetterman went on the lam, sparking a nationwide FBI manhunt. His elaborate game of cat and mouse lasted nearly three years, until the feds caught up with him after a routine traffic violation and brought him to justice.

In this sensational story of the seductive power of greed, Kenneth Walton breaks his silence for the first time and, in his own words, details the international scandal that forever changed the way eBay does business.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In November 1998, Walton was a bored, unproductive 31-year-old Sacramento attorney when a "boorish" army buddy, Ken Fetterman, showed him his eBay art auctions on the Internet, gave him a five-minute tutorial on "the world's largest flea market" and cut Walton in on an auction that doubled his $400 investment. Soon Walton was frequenting thrift stores, making shill bids to raise the price on his own and Fetterman's auctions and selling paintings with signatures he strongly suspected were doctored by Fetterman, even allowing one buyer to think he'd landed a Giacometti. When Walton forges Richard Diebenkorn's signature on a painting that auctions for $135,805 in May 2000, the result is front-page coverage in the New York Times and an FBI investigation. The amoral slacker loses friends, lovers and his law license. eBay bans him for life; he pleads guilty to a felony and gets probation. Walton is humbled but gains a conscience, a pure love of art and a passion for computer programming. This engrossing morality tale is also a primer on how to commit Internet fraud, an indictment of eBay and its lackadaisical attitudes about crime, as well as a sad commentary on society where art is a commodity to be bought sight unseen by the greedy and foolish. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Fake is the real deal -- a vivid and illuminating sprint through the murky waters of online auctions, greed, and the makings of a con. Kenneth Walton's story is rapid-fire read for all, and a compelling primer for anyone thinking of buying or selling something valuable over the Internet."

-- Franz Wisner, New York Times bestselling author of Honeymoon with My Brother --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment (April 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416907114
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416907114
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,489,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was, in late 1998, a somewhat unproductive and very unhappy junior attorney, working for the third-largest law firm in Sacramento. Eager for any distraction, I began selling art on eBay, an avocation I learned from an old army buddy, Ken Fetterman, who seemed to be doing really well with it.

It started out innocently, but things quickly went awry. In May 2000, I forged the signature of Richard Diebenkorn onto a painting that resembled his work, and then auctioned it on eBay for $135,858. The New York Times put me on its front page, the FBI started investigating me, and I got in a lot of trouble.

With my legal career over, I started developing software, and soon started HammerTap, which (ironically) made tools for eBay users. The company was successful, but when eBay discovered I was the one running it, it threatened to sue me unless I sold it. And so I did.

This gave me time to start work on my book FAKE: Forgery, Lies, & eBay, which will be released on April 25, 2006.

I currently live in Sacramento, California. FAKE is my first book. I enjoyed writing it, and if you like it I may write more.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I bought this book because I'm a powerseller on eBay, and I thought it sounded like an interesting story. But let me tell you, it's far more than just a story about unethical selling on eBay. This book reads like a thriller, and is difficult to put down. It's a crazy story about a somewhat ordinary guy who is unhappy with his job and is desperate to try something different. A lot of us can relate to that. His problem is that the "something" he tries (eBay) tastes so unbelievably good that he gets hooked on it immediately, and then when he discovers that it is rotten inside, he can't stop eating it, even though he knows it's bad for him.

This leads to some rather dire consequences. You can't believe what this guy goes through, and you wonder how he survived. In the end, he not only survives, but thrives, and it's inspiring to watch him get there.

The writing is not dry or boring at all, and reads like a great novel. He weaves his own crazy story with interesting facts about eBay, the art world, and the criminal justice system. I should say this: This book is not just for eBay users. This is a story ANYone could enjoy and relate to. I challenge you to to try and tear yourself away from it once you start.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So many lessons in one book.... where to start? October 26, 2006
I am a high end art collector at major auctions and have looked at ebay items up for sell. So many are obviously fakes that I have written to a couple of power sellers. They immediately threatened to sue me.

However, that is not why I am writing this review. This is a story of someone who knew nothing about art but was slowly engulfed in a new world where profit opportunity was high and old rules no longer applied. The individual involved acted like a major corporation in slowly bending the rules until they no longer believed the old rules or thought they could not possible be caught.

I think the story should be read by every corporate executive in America. It shows how easy it is to justify going 65 in a 55 zone and then occasionally speeding up to 85 when you think no one cares that you are going over the speed limit.

It is also an inspirational tale. I am very impressed with the author and how he changed his life around.

I would also recommend this book to anyone buying or selling on ebay. It is unbelievable how some of the items are marketed there. Ebay is not incented to police it to the degree they should. Buyer beware. At least for sure, I can tell you the art is not what you think it is!

This is a fast read .. get it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
This is a very good read. I bought this at the same time I got Augusten Burroughs' new book and intended to read both at the same time (I have a short attention span and like to juggle at least two books at a time). But once I started this, I couldn't put it down. Without using Dan Brown-style deliberate cliffhangers, the author has a way of keeping you reading. It's all about good storytelling, and the guy's got a good story.

The book has a lot to say about the art world, a world I didn't really know anything about, and the author tilts up the corporate giant that is eBay and allows you to look at its dark underside, which is populated by a lot of pretty nasty characters (including, by the middle of the book, the author himself). He undertakes some pretty shady stuff and gets himself in a lot of trouble, all the while deluding himself into thinking he's not really doing anything wrong (like an alcoholic who can't admit he has a drinking problem).

By the end of the book, though, you end up begrudgingly liking him. I did, anyway. There's a lot of interesting stuff here. I would give this 4.5 stars, but I can't, so I will make the call and round down to 4. But like I said, it's a very good read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much more than a tell-all May 19, 2006
Once I began this extraordinary book, I could not put it down. Whether you are an art buff, addicted to ebay or simply relish a great story, you can't go wrong. Not often a fan of non fiction, I'm inspired to seek out other works.

If the book is lacking anything, it's that I wish it had been longer. Highly recommend.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars something for everyone July 9, 2007
My son picked "Fake" for our mother/son book club. The boys are sixteen; the mothers work in a variety of professional fields. No one was bored. Everyone finished the book, which is unusual. Discussion was lively and wide-ranging, even with the author present. I asked and he came!

Part of the charm of the book, the story and the man derives from our inherent hope that people can grow by surviving adversity, even self-made, or perhaps, especially self-made. Walton gives readers an engaging look at the California art scene and ebay, while allowing us to watch him decide what he will do next.

If he writes another book, I'll definitely read it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fake: Forgery, Lies, & eBay July 30, 2006
This is a must read.

Man! What a powerful, gripping tale of eBay manipulation in the early days. Walton shares an intimate, personal saga of eBay success and his resulting downfall.

I was reading Feinstein's Last Dance when I decided to read the first chapter of Walton's book. 4 1/2 hours later, I went back to Feinstein.

Kudos to Ken Walton!


Franklin, Tennessee
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fake: One Man's Travels down a Bad Path
Fake: Forgery, Lies, & eBay. Came out in 2006. Kenneth Walton describes his sketchy art dealings that led to his adding "RD" to the bottom of an ugly painting. Read more
Published 2 months ago by William B. Harrison
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent resource!
Published 5 months ago by Shirley Sanders
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to put down
This is a real page-turner and hard to put down. An interesting minor sub-text is Mr. Walton's effort to become an attorney, and it does require effort and money, and his... Read more
Published 5 months ago by J.
3.0 out of 5 stars GREED ALWAYS HAS A PRICE!
Amazing how a person can be dishonest and deceitful and think he/she will get away with it - whether it's art forgers or bank robbers history has shown that they never get away... Read more
Published 7 months ago by IVOR
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read!!!
Keeps you on the edge of your seat and turning page after page. This is a hard one to put down. The best written biographical novel I have read in years. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Cinsha
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book on possibly one of the most notorious eBay scandals
Kenneth Walton was not in the most fulfilling of jobs, overworked and underpaid in a law firm. And then he connects with a friend from his army days, Ken Fetterman. Read more
Published 9 months ago by classicalsteve
5.0 out of 5 stars wow
Couldn't stop reading it. Finished it overnight once I started. What a story. Definitely recommended reading. Two thumbs up. Get it now.
Published 12 months ago by Ali A. Moiz
Success and money, even though they knew it was wrong. I'm halfway through the book and I know I have to finish this one for sure.
Published 15 months ago by Nomanslander
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm Sad That It's Over
It usually takes me awhile to finish a book. I am easily distracted and read in small chunks. Well, this was one of those books that you can't put down. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Jeffrey M. Barber
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Book about the Pitfalls of Buying Art on eBay
I had read several books on art forgery, but none specifically dealt with forged art being sold on eBay. If you purchase or sell art on eBay, this is a must read.
Published 19 months ago by Irwin W. Fisk
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Signed copy of Fake available
How do I know the signature isn't fake? ;-)

Apr 26, 2006 by Kathi Mills |  See all 2 posts
Another Signed Copy of Fake Available Now on Ebay! Be the first to reply
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