An 82-year-old Colorado man is facing federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a case involving counterfeit graded sports cards.
A complaint unsealed Wednesday morning charges Mayo Gilbert McNeil with knowingly selling fake high-grade cards in a scheme that netted him $800,000 in cash and other card in a scheme that went on for over four years.
McNeil was arrested Wednesday morning in Denver and made his initial appearance in the U.S. District Court there. He was released on $50,000 bond and will be arraigned in the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn on March 16. He was assigned a public defender in the case.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, FBI, New York Field Office, announced the arrest and charge.
According to court documents obtained by SC Daily, the case involves not only counterfeit cards but fake holders as well.
The FBI says between April 2015 and July 2019, McNeil conspired with others to sell and trade cards, including 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie cards, with victims he found via the internet and through online selling platforms.
An affidavit cited two of what investigators say were multiple cases of fraud involving McNeil and other, as yet unnamed individuals.
In 2015, the FBI says McNeil and an unindicted co-conspirator exchanged emails in which their scheme was discussed. “You and Jr. in January are gonna travel cross country in USA with cards in the new cases. You be (sic) making $5k on every deal,” the affidavit states.
In January of 2017, the FBI says McNeil sold two baseball cards to a sports card shop in Las Vegas that were later determined to be counterfeit. A store employee made a copy of McNeil’s driver’s license and after his identity was connected with the sale of counterfeit cards, the
FBI says McNeil began looking to secure fake IDs and used a variety of email accounts to disguise his identity throughout the scheme.
According to the affidavit, McNeil transacted business with another unidentified collector in Michigan in 2017. In October of that year, the two agreed on a trade in which McNeil is accused of sending two Jordan rookie cards to the victim as part of the deal that were later determined to be fake.
In the summer of 2019, another victim met Mayo through an online auction site, asking about two PSA 10 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie cards. The affidavit states McNeil asked to communicate with him outside the parameters of the auction site and the victim sent a wire transfer for $4,500 to McNeil in exchange for one of the cards, which was then mailed to the victim’s home in Manhasset, NY. The card was later determined by PSA to be fake.
“The transactions between the defendant Mayo Gilbert McNeil and Victims 1 and 2 are just a representative set of transactions in fraudulent sports cards engaged in by the defendant and his co-conspirators,” wrote FBI Special Agent Christopher Campbell in the affidavit.
There is no indication yet how many counterfeit cards were created or how they were created.
“As part of the scheme, McNeil, together with others, obtained authentic ‘Company-1’ tamper-resistant cases and other indices of authenticity, including Company-1 logos and grading labels, and used those materials to falsely represent that counterfeit sports cards were authentic and graded by Company-1,” Campbell stated.
The case is being handled by the FBI’s Business and Securities Fraud Section. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Patrick J. Campbell and Assistant United States Attorney Alexander Mindlin are in charge of the prosecution.
“Protection from fraud extends to all consumers, regardless of what team they root for,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “As alleged, the defendant orchestrated a years’ long and far-reaching scheme to defraud sports trading cards enthusiasts and the sports memorabilia industry. Our Office is committed to addressing counterfeiting at all levels of the market.”
Peace says the New York City Police Department assisted the FBI with the investigation.
“As alleged, Mr. McNeil defrauded sports memorabilia collectors of more than $800,000 by intentionally misrepresenting the authenticity of the trading cards he was peddling when, in fact, they were counterfeit. The FBI remains committed to investigating fraud at all levels and bringing the subjects who engage in it to justice,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll.
Dealing with counterfeiters has been an ongoing issue for grading companies. PSA has made adjustments to its holders, including additional security features on multiple occasions over the last several years, including attempts to thwart counterfeiting in 2017. In 2021, Beckett said it was investigating numerous instances where fake holders were being created.
Last year, eBay introduced its Authenticity Guarantee program for both raw and graded cards. Any graded card valued at $250 or more that is sold through the site must be first shipped to PSA for another examination to make sure the holder hasn’t been tampered with and the cards is the same one that was originally graded.