CC investigates: Is Ed Dtoke MJ actually Luis Gonzales?

by Bill Cable
on 2023-05-31, 06:35:05

It's been a long, grueling task... but I think I've finally landed the irrefutable evidence I've been looking for.

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Right now you're thinking: "Huh?" Alright... let's go back to the beginning. July 6, 2022 I got an unsolicited FB message from a guy from Peru:

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"Ed" had posted some photos on the "vintage star wars action figures" (yes, lower case) group, and someone sent him the article I wrote about the Golden Grail back in 2018. He asked if the figures he found looked real. He sent a bunch of photos, and they looked real enough. But what really sold them was that one of them was an ESB45 C-3PO. The only place that figure was ever sold at retail was Peru. It's impossible to fake. Even without a BASA sticker, that 3PO is extremely valuable. The fact that the other 3 showed the exact same damage, exact same sliced bubbles, exact same patina when you hold them, that was ample evidence they were all from a single source. So I got together with some character focus collectors (Skye Paine and Matt George), and we bought the lot.

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Ed was happy. We were happy. We had an extra Vader none of us wanted, but it was just gravy on an amazing find. Over the next several months some other Peruvian pieces dribbled in from Ed... a BASA lunchbox:

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A Troop Transport that's apparently fairly common:

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A cardboard board game:

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I asked if he could track down any Read-Along books for Kevin Lentz, which he did:

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It was a nice little thing... everything he turned up was clearly legitimate. Other than the original find it was all relatively inexpensive. And I was scoring stuff for friends that made them happy. Taking no cut on any of it, I'd add. I was content being a conduit. Everything was cool.

In mid-September I received a PM from Pat O'Brien, a collector who'd been burned by fake BASA cards a few years prior. He told me "I finally found where that dirtbag Luis Mendez Gonzales is in FB and I saw you are a friend of his - Ed Dtoke MJ." I asked what proof he had, to which he replied, "I was told by a friend in Peru. Its definitely him". But he had no other proof. And his friend from Peru wouldn't go on the record of share how he knew Ed was Luis. Since I hadn't seen even a hint of fraud, I was disinclined to take the word of an anonymous friend from Peru. I shared the info with Skye and Matt, re-examined our figures, and decided there's no way they were fake. Life went on.

I hadn't heard from Ed for a few months, until one day in January he said he scored another carded figure - a Yoda!

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I reached out to Ross Cuddie to see if he was interested. I shared the warning from Pat and my belief that everything Ed had turned up previously was authentic. Ross ended up buying it. Nothing about it seemed anything but above-board.

In April, Ed found a Han.

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Exceptionally bad shape. Trashed BASA sticker. I passed the images along to Ross Barr who negotiated down the price by a shocking amount before pulling the trigger. It seemed Ed was a bit quick to accept a lowball, but nothing too strange.

A couple weeks later, Ed found a Stormtrooper.

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The Stormtrooper just didn't look right. Not even the small photos on Facebook looked right. I told Ed it didn't look right to me, he sent some close-up photos asking me to verify the piece was real, but I told him I just couldn't. I'd need to see it in person, but he'd do better sending it to get authenticated. That day I was also sent a link to an auction featuring the same photos.

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Two new BASAs in such quick succession brought eyeballs, and accusations. More evidence that Luis was selling on eBay under a bunch of different aliases was brought to light, and people kept pointing a finger at Ed. Ed had told me he purchased his find from various anonymous flea market sellers, so I thought maybe that'd be a reasonable explanation. So I asked...

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"No and I don't know that person" seemed like an unnecessarily defiant reply, and that was the first time any real suspicion arose within me. But it was only suspicion, and given he'd seen the accusations and there was a language barrier, I decided to give Ed the benefit of the doubt. Still, it was odd. I decided to play nice and see what else I could draw out. I figured if he was Luis and I got confrontational he'd vanish.

I told Ed the only way I could verify his Stormtrooper was real would be if I looked at it in person. He agreed to pull the auction and mail it to me.

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I found it compelling he turned down a $3500 offer just to get it authenticated by me. If Ed was engaged in fraud, why turn down easy money like that? If it's for the goal of the long con, that'd be foolishly risky.

While the package was in transit, Ross Barr saw the posts about these BASAs and asked for his money back. Ed attempted to get me to intervene, but I advised him his best option was to accept a return and refund the money. His pleas became more desperate and more verbose the more I refused to help him.

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At this point I'm thinking the smoking gun evidence is in the mail, so I wanted to remain as non-adversarial as I could. The package arrived and I could tell almost immediately it was a transplanted, authentic BASA sticker. Ed pleaded his case, pretty adamantly, but no doubt he was selling a counterfeit.

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But still, I didn't have any concrete evidence that "Ed" had done anything wrong. It could just as easily be the case he'd been suckered by Luis through a tricleros intermediary as Ed himself being the source. Everything he said was plausible. My hopes of having actual proof were dashed.

At that time, the first of two new pieces of info was uncovered. An employee at eBay was able to provide the return address tied to the numerous eBay accounts owned by Luis. One of those accounts was the account of Ed's "friend" whom he asked to sell the Stormtrooper. It was time to settle this (I thought)...

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What I thought was fool-proof was still insufficient! He still had a plausible reason for the connection with Luis. That was until a second, more damning piece of evidence was realized! The return address of Luis' eBay account was the SAME ADDRESS that Ed used when mailing a BASA figure (a different Yoda) to Narayan Naik. I asked Ed how that was possible, and I haven't heard from him again.

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I can't think of any explanation why Ed would use Luis' return address, given his numerous denials against being him or even knowing him. Seems like I finally caught him in a lie he couldn't weasel his way out of. It's sad. Given that the Stormtrooper was a transplanted, authentic sticker (attempting to cover price sticker removal damage is my best guess), I don't know that I'd trust any of the other ones that'd have turned up since January. In retrospect, it did strike me as convenient that each had a crease through the BASA sticker. If I was going to fake one of these on a damaged card, it'd only make sense to crease the card again with the sticker attached to make them seem paired.

I've also heard that there were an unusual number of shoppers for poor condition ESB 41 MOCs and cardbacks back around November. Curious if any Yodas or a Han traded hands back then...

But what really blows my mind... what still doesn't make sense at all... is this all started with that ESB45 3PO. What are the chances this particular con man, or any con man, would turn up one of the single rarest Vintage production figures in existence? That seems like a tremendous barrier to entry in the fraud game. Luis sold all the obvious, terrible fakes. Vanishes. Then years later stumbles upon the Holy Grail. It's beyond belief. The chances are just astronomical! And yet, it appears that's exactly what happened.

Should I have been more skeptical? Less trusting? Probably. I am gullible by nature and never think people would lie to my face like this. And his ability to come up with viable explanations was honestly really impressive. Still... one mistake, carelessly writing down the wrong return address, and it all collapses. Take this article as my mea culpa.





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