Creating fake sports memorabilia and phony documents could send John Rogers to prison for several years.
Rogers, 44, of North Little Rock, AR, admitted in federal court Monday that he conducted a fraud scheme using forged documents and misrepresented collectibles, including a doctored Heisman Trophy and fake baseball cards that he used as collateral on loans. He’s the former owner of Sports Cards Plus and Rogers Photo Archive.
Rogers pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. The conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison but if Rogers cooperates with associated legal matters, his time in federal custody could be cut to just under eight years.
U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin scheduled a sentencing hearing for Sept. 12.
Rogers admitted in a plea agreement that he carried out the scheme between 2009 and 2014 through his two Arkansas-based businesses, Sports Card Plus and Rogers Photo Archive LLC, resulting in losses of more than $9.5 million to investors, customers and financial institutions.
In order to obtain money from investors, Rogers lied about having secured contracts to purchase certain collections of sports memorabilia and newspaper photograph archives his company would sell at a profit, according to the plea agreement. Rogers showed the investors contracts for collections and archives even though he knew the deals never actually existed because the contracts were forgeries that Rogers created to deceive them.
Through the plea agreement, Rogers also admitted that he sold various sports memorabilia that he knew was not authentic because he had either created the item himself or altered it to make it appear legitimate. In 2012, for example, Rogers paired an altered Heisman Trophy with phony certifications to secure a $100,000 loan from an investor.
Other fraudulent contracts and fake sports memorabilia were utilized to secure more than $4 million in loans from multiple financial institutions in Arkansas. Rogers says he used fraud proceeds he received from investors and financial institutions to repay customers who found out those items were bogus, admitting he provided customers with fraudulent certificates of authenticity, as well as fraudulent hologram stickers from a major auction house.
In addition to the prison sentence that will be handed out in six months, Rogers will also be forced to pay back the victims of his fraud to the tune of as much as $25 million. In January of 2014, FBI agents raided Rogers’ business and home in Arkansas and anything else seized by the government there could potentially be sold. Some of Rogers victims did get money from last year’s seven-figure sale of the Conlon photo archive.
For several years, Rogers Photo Archives purchased massive quantities of original photos from newspapers, creating digital copies for them that could be stored more efficiently.
Last year, former Mastro Auctions president Doug Allen was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison, by far the longest sentence in any sports memorabilia fraud case. It followed a multi-year investigation into shill bidding and fake memorabilia at Mastro, which is no longer in business. According to court records, Allen had tried to cooperate with federal agents during their investigation of Rogers but instead, while wearing a recording device, tipped his friend off to an impending visit from the FBI, “putting agents at risk,” according to the government. Rogers then provided evidence the feds used to prosecute Allen.