A few years ago, we brought you the story of a man who traveled across Florida, selling what he claimed were Babe Ruth autographed baseballs to unsuspecting pawn shops. The balls, which were made to look old, included fake PSA/DNA letters of authenticity and Mark Szakaly was able to pull of the scam 35 times before being caught. In 2012, he was sentenced to four years in prison.
Now, law enforcement officials say they’ve caught another serial Ruth ball faker–and his accomplice– who have been spending the summer pawning phony Bambino balls across at least three southern states.
Law enforcement officers in Mississippi took Shane Simpson, 36, and Autumn Burkett, 25, into custody Thursday in Biloxi. They say the two are responsible for selling 13 Ruth baseballs to pawn shops across five states. Simpson has been charged with false pretense and Burkett with accessory before the act of false pretense.
Officers in D’lberville, MS were able to recover one of the baseballs along with a fake certificate of authenticity.
Police say Burkett is Simpson’s girlfriend and investigators tracked them to Baldwin County, AL and then to Mississippi. The Sun-Herald of Biloxi reports the two are being held at the Harrison County jail on $10,000 bond.
Some of the pawn shops paid over $1,000 for the balls, which were offered with certificates of authenticity. Investigators say Simpson was also selling stolen merchandise from local retailers.
“They were very, very good fakes,” said a spokesman for Marietta, GA police. “The letter of authenticity as well as the baseball seemed to be legitimate.”
However, a look at the ball taken into evidence showed a clear modern era forgery. It isn’t known exactly what some of the other baseballs sold to pawn shops may have looked like.
Surveillance video shows representatives of one shop looking up the value of Ruth baseballs online while Simpson waits in the background. Eventually, they bought the ball for $1,000, only to discover it was a forgery.
Police in D’lberville say they believe it was Simpson who pulled the same trick at shops in that area.
On Tuesday night, WKRG in Mobile showed pictures of the ball Simpson pawned there in a story that aired on one of their evening newscasts:
One giveaway to the crime was that Simpson was using the same COA number in each case.