Sports collecting message boards have been full of posts highlighting vintage sports advertisements that are actually reproductions. Many are purchased on eBay by buyers who think they’ve gotten a steal on a Christy Mathewson or Babe Ruth item at less than $100. The auction descriptions are carefully written, touting the item as if it were from the early 20th century but never actually stating it. We’ve warned of these hucksters before. Many sellers have been getting away with these fakes for years. However, a recent–and somewhat similar–development in another collectibles field has revealed that all it takes is a few really upset buyers who find out they’ve been had to get the feds involved. It also reveals that counterfeiters will go to extremes to create vintage looking cardboard to line their pockets.
Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Kerry Haggard, 47, of Commerce, GA, was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison for selling horror movie posters and lobby cards that he represented over the Internet and elsewhere as authentic vintage collectibles, but were in fact fakes. Haggard pled guilty to one count of mail fraud on Oct. 24, 2011, and was sentenced this week in Manhattan federal court by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon.
“This guy is the Bernie Madoff of the movie-poster industry,” victim Robert Rogovin, 65, told the New York Post, which also reported that Haggard ripped off close friends as well as strangers.
From January 2006 to August 2009, Haggard engaged in a scheme to defraud collectors by selling purportedly vintage horror movie posters and lobby cards that he represented were original pieces, knowing that the items were reproductions he had created himself. Haggard used a New York-based printing company to make high-quality copies of horror movie cards or posters from either hard copies or digital scans of pieces he provided. He also used a restoration company to attach the copies to lobby card stock and alter the resulting product to make it look as real as possible.
Haggard then fraudulently marketed the reproductions as originals through eBay. He was able to sell numerous fake lobby cards and posters for movies such as “Frankenstein” and “Son of Frankenstein,” at prices ranging from $500 to $5,000, to approximately 25 victims. In other instances, Haggard traded his fake reproductions to other sellers who gave him real lobby cards and/or posters in return. The victims learned of the fraud in various ways, including after providing the lobby card to a restoration expert, or after consigning the piece to a large auction house for sale.
Although the defendant was released on bail after his arrest in April 2010, he was rearrested and remanded in March 2011, upon order of the court, after the FBI learned that he was attempting to enlist the assistance of an individual to hide items that were part of the fraud from the FBI and from his victims. The FBI recovered several pieces believed to be part of Haggard’s fraud. Then, even while in jail, Haggard continued secreting assets and items from the fraud, enlisting the assistance of his girlfriend and son in doing so. The FBI recovered several of these pieces as well.
As a result of Haggard’s fraud, his victims lost more than $1.3 million in money and property. Haggard’s interest in the recovered pieces has been forfeited to the United States. It is anticipated that proceeds from the sale of those pieces will be used to compensate Haggard’s victims.
In addition to the prison term, Judge McMahon sentenced Haggard to three years of supervised release, imposed a $1.38 million forfeiture judgment, imposed a restitution order for $1.38 million, and ordered him to pay a $100 special assessment fee.