The FBI says none of the six sports memorabilia dealers charged with fraud on Tuesday are facing conspiracy charges, but the accumulated total of jerseys and pieces of jerseys taken into evidence during its investigation in those cases runs into the thousands.
The Bureau announced Tuesday that Eric Inselberg of New Jersey (Taylor Huff Inc. and Pasadena Trading Corp.) and Bradley Wells of Florida (Authentic Sports and Historic Auctions Inc.) have been indicted on mail fraud charges and Bernard Gernay of New Jersey (Pro Sports Investments), Bradley Horne of South Carolina (Authentic Sports), Mitchell Schumacher of Wisconsin (MS Sports) and Jarrod Oldridge of Nevada (JO Sports) have been charged by information with mail fraud. Investigators say each defendant represented jerseys as “game used” when they were not.
Investigators say some of the jerseys were cut up for use by sports card manufacturers. Others were sold or consigned to auctions. The FBI’s Chicago office says some of them were altered to look game worn in an attempt to fool buyers who collect game jerseys and equipment. Special Agent Ross Rice told Sports Collectors Daily on Wednesday that “representative samples” of the jerseys were taken to various manufacturers of game uniforms for the pro leagues who confirmed they were replica jerseys rather than game-used.
Charging documents released earlier in the day didn’t indicate how many jerseys each dealer had, exactly when or where they were sold and for how much or how many jersey swatches–if any–were inserted into trading card packs as “hits”. Additional evidence being stockpiled by the FBI isn’t likely to be revealed until a trial, if the cases get that far in federal court. Each case is being handled separately and the U.S. Attorney’s Office isn’t alleging conspiracy but the charges are so similar, the indictments were revealed together.
Charge papers indicate that hundreds of ordinary jerseys were obtained from a variety of sellers including retail sources, then represented as having been worn in competition, thus increasing their value. Game worn jerseys can sell for thousands of dollars. Court documents indicate that the value of the jerseys sold and auctioned was in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars”.
Inselberg’s attorneys released a statement to the New York Daily News indicating their client was innocent and would fight the charges in court.
The investigation dates back more than five years and agents say interstate carriers including UPS, were used to ship packages of misrepresented jerseys across state lines.
The indictments were announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and Robert Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI.