The feds have caught up with a dealer selling counterfeit sports cards, but he’s still free to wheel and deal—for now.
Federal investigators searched the home of Jamie Lee Nucero in State College, Pennsylvania last December. What they found is something straight out of the 1990s Operation Bullpen investigation.
Row after row of high grade rookie cards.
There was only one problem.
They weren’t real.
Last week a U.S. District Court judge in Scranton accepted Nucero’s guilty plea to mail fraud charges after an investigation turned up eBay transactions in which Nucero sold counterfeit cards to unsuspecting buyers across the country.
Court papers obtained by Sports Collectors Daily indicate the scam may have been going on for as long as five years. From 2002 until the feds showed up at his door in December 2007, the 25 year-old Nucero took in as much as $10,000 for the counterfeit cards. When they searched his home, 11,000 reprinted cards were found representing various sports. The criminal complaint specifically lists cards of Mario LeMieux and Patrick Roy among those which Nucero sold while using eBay IDs such as ‘scarecrow2582’ and ‘cropsiescollection’.
Federal agents became interested after receiving reports from collectors in California and Virginia who had purchased the fake cards. Wayne Samuelson of the U.S. attorney’s office said Nucero was selling legitimate cards along with the counterfeit items.
Mail fraud is a felony, carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail, a $250,000 fine or both. The guilty plea likely means Nucero won’t receive anywhere near that much. In fact, under the plea agreement, federal prosecutors have recommended a probation sentence, although the final decision will be up to Judge Thomas Vanaskie. Nucero may also be forced to pay restitution to his victims, although the total amount of money involved has not yet been calculated. Samuelson said investigators are still trying to determine if any other eBay buyers purchased counterfeit cards from Nucero.
Nucero, now living in Marshalls Creek, PA, is free while he awaits sentencing in November. Defense attorney Joseph D’Andrea told Judge Vanaskie that Nucero makes his living selling cards on eBay and Vanaskie has agreed to allow him to continue under the supervision of federal probation officers. the plea agreement also includes other stipulations Nucero would have to abide by.
Another Pennsylvania dealer, Roger Lee Hooper, still faces charges relating to the sale of sports cards and memorabilia. Hooper had been scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on August 12, but the case has been continued until next month.
Hooper faces several counts of fraud and deceptive business practices regarding the sales of non-genuine autographed baseballs and sports card packs showing signs of tampering.
The Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office has been in contact with collectors who say they have been victimized by Hooper. The dealer insists he did not knowingly cheat his buyers.
Detective Earl Bock has told reporters that hundreds of dubious items with a value in excess of $60,000 are involved in that case.
Thursday: Counterfeits came from Canada