“If Brent does any more good things for the hobby he’s going to end up in prison.”
Whether dealing with accused mobsters or offering an opinion on hobby-related matters, well-known criminal defense attorney Jeff Lichtman usually doesn’t pull punches. As the altered trading cards scandal played out during the spring and early summer, he was an outspoken critic of the owner of the hobby’s largest online auction company, one accused by collectors of selling hundreds of doctored cards.
Now, Brent Huigens is Lichtman’s client.
The New York-based attorney, an avid card collector who has represented the likes of John Gotti Jr. and Mexican drug lord El Chapo, wrote on the Net54 message board Monday that he had been assisting Huigens. With his comments, Lichtman confirmed that a federal investigation into the ongoing doctored card imbroglio was underway. He also confirmed that cards returned for refunds after they were exposed as altered were being funneled to the FBI.
Lichtman said PWCC has been notifying those who purchased impacted cards and issuing refunds for that were believed to be trimmed or re-colored. One such notice obtained by Sports Collectors Daily earlier this month is below.
Several months ago, a small group of collectors on the Blowout Cards forum began researching and identifying a large number of current and vintage cards that were purchased through PWCC or in other auctions, cracked out of their grading company holders, altered in some fashion, then re-graded by one of the hobby’s three main authenticators and sold again, usually for a significant profit. The “before” and “after” pictures in many cases were undeniable. The card doctors appeared to be consigning a large volume of cards exclusively through PWCC’s platform.
The Blowout members have identified several people who appear to be connected to the purchase and sale of those cards, but thus far, no charges have been filed. That will likely change now that the FBI is actively investigating what could be the largest case of fraud in the history of the hobby. While much of the focus has been on vintage cards that have been altered, Lichtman has stated on the Net54 board that he believes the size of the fraud involving current era cards will “dwarf the vintage losses.”
In numerous forum posts over the last few months, Lichtman had repeatedly accused his new client of fraud, poking fun at PWCC’s “marketplace tenets” which were aimed at clarifying PWCC’s views on what constitutes an altered card.
“Very similar to Doug Allen: is convinced he’s smarter than everyone he’s defrauding and refuses to keep his mouth shut, insisting upon trying to lie his way out of this. Which of course will come back to bite him,” Lichtman stated on May 19.
“I’d like to clean up as much of this mess as possible and provide some clarity,” he stated Monday.
“Since I began representing Brent, he has been cooperating with the FBI, has reached out to people who purchased altered cards from PWCC and refunded money, and is providing all documentation from his dealings with any and all hobby dealers/consignors. Unlike in Mastro where those defendants destroyed records, ‘cooperated’ minimally and refused to pay back a single dollar of restitution to their victims, I’m actually accomplishing more with Brent to assist the government in getting victims paid back and to stop the fraud. This is why I decided to take the case, after consulting with the FBI.
“As for my opinions on the people involved, whatever I said I believed but was before significant assistance has been provided to the government. But punishment is not my decision.”
Lichtman says not every card “outed” as altered should be considered damaged goods. Some have had corners smoothed without trimming or have been lightly cleaned without chemicals–work that most collectors generally accept. That doesn’t mean PWCC has always denied those refund requests.
“I can tell you that we are erring on the side of giving refunds back,” Lichtman stated. ” This is a fluid situation as I have said. It is not a perfect situation by any means, but it’s a start.”
Lichtman also stated that Huigens and a group he referred to as “other dealers” have agreed to start a restitution fund “to refund money to people who purchased altered cards years ago, well past the statute of limitations time period, even though they are not required to do so by law.”