In an industry battling a nagging notion that some sort of fraud exists around the next corner, court documents emerging from the case against one of the five men who've pleaded guilty in a fake jersey scheme will not be a comfort.
Brad Wells, a Florida dealer who admitted to fraud charges last week in U.S. District Court, alleged to FBI agents and postal inspectors during interviews three years ago that trading card companies purchased jerseys from the group several years ago while knowing they weren't really game worn.
The investigators spoke to Wells at the 2009 National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland. Public documents first uncovered by Paul Lesko, a writer for Cardboard Connection, say Wells "purchased items on eBay that were retail or game issued and sold those items to the card companies as game used."
Authentic Sports Investments, a now defunct company Wells was a part of, took bats out to a local ball field and hit with them to make them appear game-used and tossed jerseys in the dryer to remove their folds and make them look more convincing.
While no card company executives have as of now, been accused of any crimes nor has it been revealed that any fraudulent jersey pieces wound up in 'relic' or 'memorabilia cards', what Wells told investigators during that 2009 interview is disturbing. He claims one Upper Deck employee wanted to buy Derek Jeter game-worn jerseys for far less than market value and wasn't all that concerned with whether the items were actually game-used.
According to the interview summary, Wells said he was told game used pants were used by the companies instead of jerseys because they were cheaper and were harder to identify.