A man prosecutors say organized a massive sports autograph forgery ring has been sentenced to six years in prison.
Clifton Panezich, 31, was sentenced Tuesday in Mahoning County (OH) Court, according to local media reports. He had pleaded guilty last year to a series of charges related to the sale of phony autographs on eBay from 2010 to 2015.
Panezich, a former college baseball player, was one of several people charged in the case, but will receive the harshest penalty. In December, he pleaded guilty to aggravated theft, identity fraud, telecommunications fraud, money laundering, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and three counts of forgery with a forfeiture specification.
In court Tuesday, Panezich apologized for his actions.
“It started as a legitimate business and snowballed into what you see before you,” Panezich told Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Prosecutors say the online sales resulted in the largest case of domestic fraud in eBay history, one that lasted several years before complaints from buyers began piling up.
Also sentenced Tuesday was 30-year-old Daniel Martini, another Youngstown area man who pleaded guilty to money laundering last fall and was sentenced to community service. Jason Moore of West Farmington, OH, was sentenced to three years in prison last week for his role in the scheme. Craig McCormick, also of West Farmington, is slated to be sentenced April 25.
Panezich’s mother, Rose Mary pleaded guilty for her role in the scam and is serving probation and one year of house arrest at her home in Nevada. She was also fined $2,000.