An Ohio man has been sentenced to five years of probation for contributing to what a huge phony autograph scam conducted online.
Shawn Pelo, 27, of Warren, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. WKBN-TV was there for the sentencing.
Four others have also pleaded guilty in the case and a grand jury is examining evidence against a mother and son who prosecutors believe organized the scam. Since April, a local grand jury has been considering charges against 30-year-old Clifton Panezich, a former college baseball player and his 61-year-old mother Rose Panezich.
The case involves footballs, trading cards, posters and other items that were sold with signatures that were actually forgeries of well-known athletes. The scheme ran for about five years and Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Martin Desmond says about 25,000 people were cheated out of more than $2 million. Money from the sales was then laundered through various bank accounts.
Daniel Marino of Austintown, OH has already been fined $4,000 and placed on six months house arrest for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
Former restaurant owner Daniel Martini pleaded guilty last year to money laundering. According to WFMJ-TV, he’s expected to be sentenced next month.
The station reported that James Serenko of Youngstown and Jason Lenzi of Columbiana, who both pleaded guilty to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, will also be sentenced at a later date.
Desmond says the five who pleaded guilty thus far were smaller players in the case and he told WFMJ that the five have been cooperating with the investigation.