Resealed wax packs and fake autographs are at the center of a case against a long-time sports memorabilia dealer.
Cumberland County, Pennsylvania prosecutors have been compiling evidence in their case against 47 year-old Roger Lee Hooper, who awaits a preliminary hearing on August 12, charged with deceptive business practices.
Police say Hooper used the eBay account of a former friend and fellow collector to defraud unsuspecting buyers out of tens of thousands of dollars through the sale of sports collectibles that were either tampered with or counterfeit. According to investigators, the bogus items included resealed vintage baseball card wax packs, fake autographs and counterfeit trading cards.
Hooper has been charged with three counts of deceptive or fraudulent business practices, two counts of theft by deception and one count of dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity.
The case began in August of 2007 when Detective Sergeant Earl Bock received a complaint from Ned Kerstetter, a collector from Carlisle, PA. Kerstetter told Bock he had allowed Hooper to sell items through Kerstetter's eBay account during the spring of 2005 in exchange for a commission. In the weeks that followed, Kerstetter began receiving complaints from buyers that the merchandise wasn't what was advertised and many wanted their money back. Kerstetter claims he attempted to get Hooper to rectify the issues, but was met with resistance.
"Mr. Kerstetter felt bad for the buyers and began cashing in CDs, bonds and other assets he had to try and get as much of the money back to them as he could," Cumberland County senior assistant district attorney Matthew Smith told Sports Collectors Daily. "He used about $60,000 of his own money to pay back the victims."
After refunding the money, Kerstetter took many of the items buyers had returned to authentication companies which also deemed they were either counterfeit or had been tampered with. During the ordeal, Hooper gave Kerstetter an autographed baseball bearing signatures from members of the 500-home run club because of the problems he had encountered. According to court records, Kerstetter sent the ball to James Spence Authentication which found the ball to contain non-genuine signatures.
In March of this year, Bock was contacted by another collector, David Herrell of Harrisonburg, VA. Herrell told the detective he had purchased numerous items at an auction conducted by Hooper in the Dillsburg, PA area and others several days later. Herrell, too, sent his items to be graded and/or authenticated only to find many of the items were non-genuine. Included in that group was a lot of 1971 Topps football wax packs rejected by an authenticator.
"He had so much," Herrell, 33, a student at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. told the Harrisburg Patroit-Ledger. "It was such a large quantity of stuff. I felt it couldn't be bad."
Smith said police executed a search warrant in May after seeing a new Hooper auction show up on AuctionZip.com. A large list of sports collectibles and coins stored at Hooper's home and two other locations were seized as evidence.
Hooper told the newspaper the items in question make up a small amount of his inventory and vowed to fight the charges.
"The whole thing comes down to somebody filled (prosecutors') heads with a lot of hogwash and they acted on it," Hooper said. "I can't believe it. I just can't believe it." Hooper claims the allegations have ruined his reputation and hurt a business he's been involved with for over 30 years.
Corky Goldstein, Hooper's lawyer, told the paper his client shouldn't have been arrested. No auctioneer can vouch for every item sold, Goldstein said, and Hooper never marketed any items deceptively.
"At most, this is a civil matter," Goldstein said. "That's where it belongs, in the civil courts."
Judge Charles Clement will preside over the hearing next month.
"One of our goals is always to make the victims whole," Smith said of the case against Hooper. "Unfortunately those victims don't always see their money returned immediately. They get paid back a little at a time. We're looking for restitution but we can never make a promise that full restitution is possible."
Smith said his office (717-240-6210) is actively seeking information on any other buyers who believe they may have been defrauded by Hooper.