NFL insider and marketing agent Mike Ornstein has told a federal judge that the dozens of jerseys he obtained and fraudulently sold as game-worn several years ago were never distributed to collectors in any form.
The Sports Business Journal reported Monday that Ornstein has been cooperating with federal investigators looking into the sale of the jerseys and numerous Super Bowl tickets he acquired and scalped. He pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy back in June and was recently sentenced to eight months in prison.
At a sentencing hearing in Cleveland, U.S. attorneys admitted that Ornstein’s cooperation has been “extensive” and “continues today”.
According to SBJ, Ornstein told the court that none of the jerseys he sold ever hit the open market, but that contradicted the bill of information to which he pleaded guilty earlier this year. That document indicated Ornstein had sold or consigned jerseys to a sports memorabilia dealer, while others were sold to a trading card company for use on memorabilia cards.
In the most recent court proceeding, Ornstein told Judge Christopher Boyko that he initially sold the jerseys to Pacific Trading Cards, but bought them back and destroyed them. Pacific is no longer in business.
“So we never did make any money on the jersey thing and there were no jerseys ever used,” Ornstein said of Pacific’s manufacturing of football cards during the period in question–from 2000-2003.
Ironically, SBJ reported that a nephew of an IRS agent “came into possession” of one of the jerseys Ornstein passed off as authentic but were actually replicas he had ordered from a Wisconsin manufacturer.
“What happened eight years ago, it was an opportunity on those jerseys but i can stand here today and say every penny was paid back and every jersey recovered,” Ornstein told the judge. “There was no victim of that crime. The intent was there. I was wrong. “
Ornstein said he was “remorseful” for his actions and his attorneys asked the court to spend his eight-month sentence at home but Boyko refused the request, based in part on a mid-1990s guilty plea to charges that Ornstein had defrauded former employer NFL Properties of $350,000.
“It is possible that as a result of other investigations going on in different parts of the country, that other offices may bring charges against certain people as a result of the cooperation by Mr. Ornstein,” said John Sammon, an assistant U.S. attorney.
The hearing also revealed that NFL officials knew as far back as 2003 that Ornstein had attempted to sell the jerseys as game worn.
Ornstein was out on bond as of last week. SBJ reported that he was awaiting a determination by the Federal Bureau of Prisons on where he would serve his sentence.