A southern California man has admitted to federal authorities he cooked up a story to sell a 19th century baseball glove that he claimed was owned by a young Babe Ruth. Irving Scheib surrendered Thursday in New York and pled guilty to one count of wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Robert P. Patterson.
According to the Complaint and Information filed in Manhattan federal court, as well as statements made during Thursday’s court proceeding, Scheib purchased a 19th century baseball glove on eBay for $750 in January which was described as an “1890’s Full Web Workman Baseball Mitt.” At the time he bought the glove, prosecutors say Scheib knew that the glove had no connection to Ruth.
Shortly after purchasing the glove on eBay, authorities say he told a sports memorabilia broker in Nevada that the glove was a family heirloom that was obtained directly from Ruth. Specifically, he claimed that deceased Hollywood actor Robert Young, to whom Scheib is related by marriage, obtained the glove from Ruth.
Prosecutors say Scheib also sent fake documents to the memorabilia dealer corroborating this fabricated provenance, and falsely claimed in a letter that the glove “was gifted to Babe Ruth’s personal friend and Golden Era Star Robert Young in 1944. . .[and that Ruth] he was so affectionate towards this glove that he slept with it under his pillow at the orphanage.”
Those fake documents, in turn, were sent to an individual interested in purchasing the glove. After paying for the glove, the buyer asked Scheib to notarize one of the letters attesting to the provenance that was signed by Scheib and purportedly signed by Scheib’s wife, who is Young’s granddaughter. Scheib refused to do so and the buyer accordingly returned the glove.
Subsequently, prosecutors say he repeated the same fabricated provenance for the glove over the telephone to someone he believed was another potential buyer in New York. That potential buyer was in actuality an undercover investigator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Irving Scheib wove a fantastical tale in an attempt to exploit the iconic status of a legendary figure in the world of baseball, Babe Ruth, to make a quick buck,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “The peddling of counterfeit goods is a crime, and his plea today makes clear that it is a crime we will prosecute.”
“Unlike a work of art or other rare collectible, an item of sports memorabilia derives its value from its context,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk. “A baseball bat or glove is not inherently valuable; a bat or glove used by a famous athlete is. What the defendant attempted to sell was in fact a baseball glove. That the glove ever belonged to Babe Ruth was a complete and elaborately constructed fiction.”
Scheib, 50, of Bonsall, California, is charged with one count of wire fraud. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He will be sentenced by Judge Patterson on October 30.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason P. Hernandez is in charge of the prosecution.