A Minnesota-based sports memorabilia dealer arrested at the National Sports Collectors Convention last summer has pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud charges. Steve Jensen, 40, owner of Vintage Authentics, agreed to the deal with government prosecutors Thursday. A sentencing hearing has been set for May 29 and Jensen has agreed to cooperate with authorities in any ongoing federal investigations as part of his plea. He won't be sentenced until that obligation has been fulfilled according to court papers obtained by Sports Collectors Daily.
Jensen admitted that between July of 2007 and July of last year, he participated in a scheme to sell ordinary replica jerseys made to look game used and use the U.S. Postal Service to deliver those packages.
Postal inspectors marched onto the floor of the Stephens Convention Center in Chicago on August 4 and took Jensen away in handcuffs. Many considered the arrest to be a warning shot to others in the industry who may be involved in illegal activity. An Associated Press crew had been tipped off to the planned arrest and pictures of it appeared in various news outlets across the country.
Jensen admitted to selling a fake Alex Rodriguez Seattle Mariners jersey on two different occasions, advertising it as game-worn, even after he was told an authenticator deemed it non-genuine and Rodriguez wouldn't autograph it. Investigators say Jensen took the jersey back, but eventually re-sold it to an undercover investigator.
Other "game" jerseys sold by Vintage Authentics also came into question during the postal service's inspection including those touted as being worn by Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols.
Charges were initially filed in federal court in Manhattan. The case was transferred earlier this month to the U.S. District Court in Rockford, Illinois for Jensen’s guilty plea and sentencing. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in New York handled the case initially and assisted with the resolution.
Mail fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, as well as restitution to the victims. The Court may also impose a fine totaling twice the loss to any victim or twice the gain to the defendant, whichever is greater. The actual sentence will be determined by the United States District Court, guided by the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
In a similar case, four other dealers pleaded guilty late last year to selling fake jerseys to buyers that included sports card companies. Two others charged in the case have not yet had their cases resolved.