There have been a lot of fraud cases involving sports memorabilia over the years. The best known is Operation Bullpen, which received national publicity after a massive forgery ring was uncovered in the late 1990s. Innumerable fake autographs were dumped on an unsuspecting public in a scheme that went on for several years.
No case, however, has been as wide-ranging and bizarre as the one involving Arkansas businessman John Rogers. Last December, the former college football player was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison on a wire fraud charge, but that doesn’t begin to tell the entire story of a scheme that led from creating fake memorabilia to ripping off banks and breaking promises to family members of a long-time baseball photographer.
Rogers bilked banks and friends out of $24 million, according to court documents, as he managed to secure loans based on phony collateral he lied about owning.
He sold mountains of fake autographs, many of which FBI officials say he created himself, practicing autographs much like master forger Greg Marino did in the Bullpen case.
WGN-TV’s Ben Bradley talked to U.S. Attorney Derek Owens, FBI investigator Brian Brusokas and PSA’s Kevin Keating in Chicago as part of this story, which aired on Monday night’s newscast.