Sheriff’s detectives in Florida say they uncovered an autograph fraud scheme in the home of a Port Richey man who was arrested for a similar crime last year.
Kenneth Lane, 54, was charged Tuesday with scheme to defraud after detectives say he sold over $13,000 worth of fake autographs on eBay to buyers in the U.S. and U.K. over a four-year period.
A complaint affidavit filed by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and obtained by Sports Collectors Daily lists eight victims Lane is accused of defrauding by selling signed items that didn’t carry authentic signatures. Sports, entertainment and historical figures were among the autographs Lane is accused of selling via an eBay ID 4709Kenneth between April of 2006 and August of 2010.
The eBay account remains active but the feedback is listed as “private”.
A detective who interviewed Lane last June said he also found a computer, printer and Signascript signature writing machine on a desk in Lane’s office. Also found were a microscope, a baseball carrying a blue ink signature that appeared to be drying and several other baseballs in boxes as well as some in plastic cases that were signed.
The affidavit includes complaints from buyers who say they purchased their items from Lane, only to have authenticators determine they were not considered genuine.
According to the sheriff’s office, Lane’s last victim was a man who purchased what he thought was an autograph of John “Bid” McPhee, a turn of the century Hall of Famer. The item was sold by Lane in August of last year for $2075. The buyer says he had the signature examined by a local dealer, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and the Cincinnati Historical Society, all of which stated in writing that the signature was a forgery.
In 2009, the affidavit indicates one buyer said she purchased a Star Trek cast photo she discovered to be bogus but when she asked for a refund, Lane told her she “should have known it was a fake” and refused to refund her money.
The detective indicated Lane admitted to using his computer and the machine to create signatures on a Marilyn Monroe photo. When he asked Lane about the autopen machine, the detective says he was told that it “is not illegal if you don’t sell the autographed items as authentic”.
Last summer, Lane was arrested for selling a baseball supposedly autographed by Chicago Cubs great Gabby Hartnett and mobster Al Capone for $6500, but never delivering the ball to the buyer. Lane claimed he had purchased the ball from a Pennsylvania man who died before he could complete the sale. Those charges were eventually dropped for unknown reasons.
Lane was arrested Tuesday. He posted $5,000 bail and has been released. Detectives say they are seeking more potential victims in the case.