Mile High Card Company President Brian Drent was taken aback last year when the Mexican sports collector sitting in the passenger seat of his car asked him how much Von Miller’s Super Bowl 50 game-worn helmet might be worth.
As someone who knows the memorabilia market, Drent couldn’t imagine how a publishing executive who lived in another country could have obtained one of the most valuable game-worn artifacts from such an historic game.
Mauricio Ortega indicated he had the helmet, but didn’t speak English very well. He had contacted Drent on Facebook after spending nearly $25,000 on a Joe Montana game-worn jersey in Mile High’s August 2016 auction and asked to pick the jersey up in person while also turning over off a couple of other items for one of the company’s upcoming auctions.
Drent and his colleagues at Mile High couldn’t believe their eyes when Ortega’s face splashed across their computer screens this week as the prime suspect in the theft of Tom Brady’s last two Super Bowl jerseys.
“I see the video of Ortega (in the Brady case), and his face is blocked out. I thought it was him. But I just laughed it off,” Drent told Denver’s ABC affiliate on Tuesday. “I dismissed it as a joke. Later one of my employees calls me and said, ‘You are not going to believe this. It was him’.”
Drent’s brush with the suspected culprit made national news. He taped a segment for NBC’s Today Show and spoke with the Associated Press in the video below.
TMZ Sports reported Ortega had quietly been shopping Brady’s Super Bowl 49 jersey to wealthy collectors who they say hadn’t known it was considered stolen. Their story also indicated Ortega had been acquiring and selling items for years, telling customers he’d obtained them legally after meeting stars like Brady, Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft and Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, using photos of himself with the celebrities as a way of providing authentication.
The AP also reported that a sports editor of the newspaper 24 Horas had spoken with Ortega several times during Super Bowl week.
“He told me that he was not there to work, that he was a fan,” Arturo Palafox said. Palafox also told AP Ortega indicated he had a Super Bowl jersey worn by Kurt Warner and had gotten it autographed by the former quarterback turned broadcaster.
“He showed me Warner’s jersey with his signature and told me a story about how Warner was surprised that he was in possession of the item,” Palafox told AP. “He said he planned to gather interest from Warner to sell him the jersey for $8,000.”