The fourth of six men charged with fraud in connection with the sale of what government lawyers say were fake game-used jerseys has entered a guilty plea in U. S. District Court in Rockford, Ill.
Mitchell Schumacher of Milwaukee-based MS Sports, entered the plea to mail fraud charges Wednesday in front of judge Philip G. Reinhard. He’s the fourth of six dealers FBI agents say participated in a scheme to doctor ordinary jerseys and market them to unsuspecting buyers, including sports card manufacturers. Earlier this week, Bernard Gernay, Bradley Horne and Jarrod Oldridge entered guilty pleas as well. The cases of Eric Inselberg and Bradley Wells are still pending. An attorney for Inselberg says his client isn’t guilty (Update: Charges were indeed dropped against Inselberg in 2013).
In 2000, Schumacher was caught in a similar scheme during the FBI’s Operation Foul Ball. He could face a tougher sentence because of that, possibly 33-41 months according to the agreement. Like the others who’ve pleaded guilty, however, Schumacher has agreed to offer information the government likely believes will be helpful in nabbing other dealers its ongoing investigation of the sports memorabilia industry.
The plea agreement states that in early 2005, Schumacher obtained “hundreds” of jerseys that were not game used and had them altered by swapping numbers and names, changing the shape of jerseys and adding patches or other identifiable marks. Court papers say Schumacher admits he then sold them to Horne, knowing Horne and others “intended to re-sell, consign and auction the jerseys to sports trading card companies and other buyers by falsely and fraudulently misrepresenting to the buyers that the jerseys were game used.”
Prosecutors say the jersey scam was going on as late as the middle of this year.
Evidence that would explain exactly where the fake jerseys were sold and what happened to them after that, has yet to be released. An FBI agent told Sports Collectors Daily last week that investigators are aware of the fate of the jerseys that were bought and re-sold by the dealers involved in the case, but because the case remains open, the information can’t be released.
Court papers say Schumacher and others “frequently changed, or caused changes to the jerseys’ appearance by roughening, scuffing, washing, dirtying, or otherwise changing the appearance of the jerseys to make them appear that they had actual ‘wear and tear’.” They also indicate that Schumacher and others involved in the scheme provided phony certificates of authenticity to buyers.