A Michigan man was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Tuesday for repackaging and selling sports cards in resealed wax packs for $43,354.94 to a couple after he told them they were original and unopened.
Bryan Alan Kennert, 57, of Muskegon, was indicted on eight counts of wire fraud in March 2022 and pleaded guilty to the charges in May, according to court records from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division.
Kennert could have received up to 20 years in federal prison for each count of wire fraud, according to The Detroit News.
Federal prosecutors accused Kennert of reselling the opened packs of cards and representing them to be originals to Andy Frisinger and his wife, Mary, from April 2019 to July 2021. According to the federal indictment, Kennert also obtained loose cards that he repackaged and sold after resealing them.
Prosecutors alleged that Kennert also sold purported rare issues of Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky rookie cards and a 1916 Sporting News rookie card of Babe Ruth — all of which were counterfeit. They say it was part of a long running scheme to defraud people.
If real, the cards featuring Ruth, Jordan, Gretzky and others would have been worth more than $7.3 million, according to an analysis by Phil Endris of Baseball Card Exchange. An authentic version of The Sporting News rookie card of Ruth alone had fetched $2.46 million in a November 2021 auction.
“Kennert exploited unsuspecting victims for 30 years,” U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said in a statement on Tuesday. “Consumers should have confidence that the products they buy are the real thing.”
According to court documents in the latest court case, Kennert rented a booth at the Anything and Everything antique mall in Muskegon and stocked it with baseball cards, the News reported.
In 2019, the Frisingers were shopping for baseball cards when they saw cards in Kennert’s booth, prosecutors said.
The couple researched the packs and determined they were a bargain, according to WWMT-TV. They met with Kennert eight times to buy more packs, the television station reported.
The Frisingers spent $43,354.94 on what they believed were authentic vintage card packs, Scott Bauer, a Department of Homeland Security special agent, wrote in a search warrant affidavit.
After buying some of the packs, Andy Frisinger noticed they appeared to be re-glued. A Jordan rookie card discovered in one of the packs was too large to fit into a standard top loader, Bauer wrote.
The couple decided to meet with sports memorabilia authenticator Steve Hart, who called the repackaged cards “100% garbage.”
Hart determined that the packs had been “tampered with and resealed,” according to court records.
In July 2021, investigators raided Kennert’s home in Norton Shores, Michigan, and seized 10 boxes of sports cards and memorabilia, a bag of counterfeit cards and framed baseball cards, according to a search warrant inventory.
Counterfeit cards seized included a T206 card of Ty Cobb, a 1957 Topps rookie card of NBA great Bill Russell, a 1963 Topps rookie card of Pete Rose, 11 rookie cards of NHL great Bobby Orr, 11 rookie cards of Jordan from the 1986-87 Fleer set, 45 1979-80 O-Pee-Chee Gretzky rookie cards, a 1914 Cracker Jack card of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, unopened packs of 1951 and 1952 Topps baseball, a 1933 Goudey card of Ruth, a 1954 Topps rookie card of Hank Aaron and a 1911 T205 gold border card of Cobb.
In addition to the bogus near-mint Ruth rookie, investigators found three of the same card in lower grades, according to the search warrant inventory.
Kennert’s sentencing ended the latest chapter in a series of fraudulent actions involving sports cards that have occurred for more than 35 years, according to court documents. His legal woes included accusations that began when he attended Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, when he convinced his roommate to send cards to Hong Kong. There, they would be copied by his roommate’s father and sent back to the U.S. to be sold as genuine articles.
In 2014, Kennert was accused of trying to auction a box of 1969 Topps baseball cards that had been opened and resealed, according to court records.
“I commend the hard work of our HSI Grand Rapids special agents in pursuing this case and bringing this fraudster to justice,” Angie Salazar, a special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Detroit, said in a statement on Tuesday. “We will continue to dismantle these schemes, wherever we find them, to protect hard-working Americans. We encourage all members of our community to remain vigilant and scrutinize deals that seem too good to be true.”