BALTIMORE — Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” was playing at the BWI Airport Embassy Suites in Linthicum, Maryland, as a dozen women gingerly sorted through racks of wedding dresses and two U.S. Marshals looked on.
Love was in the air.
For three days in November, the Marshals partnered with the General Services Administration to host a sale featuring over 2,000 items including formalwear, accessories, and designer wedding dresses. The inventory was seized earlier this year from a bridal store in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The owner, Ephonia Green, was convicted of stealing $5.1 million from her former employer, the nonprofit Association of American Medical Colleges.
Now the U.S. Government, with the fire sale on bridal gowns, was trying to recoup some of what Green stole.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that the U.S. Marshals are actually the custodians of all the property seized by the Department of Justice. So everything that DEA, FBI, ATF and our other agencies would seize, gets turned over to the Marshals for management,” said Jason Martinez of the U.S. Marshals Asset Forfeiture Division. “We physically were in the bridal shop, inventorying, tagging, and then bagging to remove them to take them to an off-site storage location.”
It was the second — and largest — wedding dress sale the Marshals have partnered with GSA to host.
“We’ve sold cattle ranches before, we’ve sold nine muscle cars that went for over $2.3 million last year,” Martinez explained. “We sell pretty much everything that there is.”
GSA employee Kevin Stallings was at the first sale in Georgia, where things weren’t as collected as they were at this D.C.-area sale.
“It was reminiscent of the first 30 minutes of the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan,'” Stallings said. The scene depicts the D-Day assault on Omaha Beach during World War II. Obviously he was exaggerating. But any regular viewer of the TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress” could compare it to a sample sale episode.
Most sales occur on GSA’s website, where current and future auctions and sales are posted. At this in-person sale, shoppers weren’t allowed to try dresses on, but the discounts were enough to entice shoppers from neighboring states.
“I never dreamed I would be selling wedding dresses in my government career. But never say never,” Stallings said.