Selling fake autographs online is easy…until you get caught.
Federal prosecutors say the former owner of a group of internet sports memorabilia businesses based in the Mid-Atlantic states faces a federal prison sentence and restitution after selling huge quantities of fake autographed sports jerseys and other items over a five-year period.
Joshua Aaron Shores, 41, of Bel Air, Maryland and also of Ocean City, Maryland, was charged with Wire Fraud in a Criminal Information filed Friday in the United States District Court in Scranton, PA. He’s agreed to plead guilty (Update: Shoes did plead guilty on 2/29/16).
According to United States Attorney Peter Smith, Shores bought unlicensed replica jerseys from China, along with mini helmets, balls and other items. Prosecutors say he then affixed phony autographs and sold them in large quantities online in a scheme that ran from 2008-2013.
Shores allegedly created, owned, and operated internet businesses under the names of Dealakhan, LLC, Stadium Authentics, Autograph Showcase, Sunset Beach, End Game Sports, Authenticgraph, NC Sports Devils and Tampa Bay Collectibles with facilities in York County, Pennsylvania and in Maryland.
Prosecutors say Shores used mailbox receiving services as his business address, created and registered PayPal and Amazon.com accounts in his name and in the names of others in order to receive payments from customers. He included “certificates of authenticity” with the phony signed items to make it appear as if they were genuinely signed by well-known athletes. Investigators believe Shores unlawfully obtained approximately $2.5 million from buyers before the businesses were shut down.
A federal agent, working undercover and in cooperation with league officials, made a purchase through Shores’ Stadium Authentics website of what was described as an authentic jersey with a “hand signed” autograph. What the agent received was merchandise that was determined to be counterfeit, which constituted wire fraud.
In 2012, complaints were filed online by collectors who believed they had been defrauded by Shores. A person calling himself “Thomas Burns” refuted those complaints.
Shores is the general manager of two restaurants in Maryland, one in Ocean City and other in Abingdon.
The Criminal Information also seeks forfeiture of real property located in Ocean City, Maryland, approximately $140,000 in Shores’ bank accounts, and an additional amount of $26,000 in proceeds related to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a sports utility vehicle. The government will also seek restitution for victims of the fraud scheme.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Olshefski.
There was no immediate word on a sentencing date for Shores.
Wire Fraud is punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a $250,000 fine. However, based on similar cases, it’s unlikely Shores will receive nearly that much prison time.