The Knoxville, TN man arrested in February for a string of sports card shop burglaries has pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy and transporting stolen goods across state lines.
Jason Cates was indicted by a federal grand jury in Lexington, KY five months ago. He pled guilty to the charges on Monday and is now awaiting sentencing.
The plea agreement says Cates was already on supervised release following a 2015 bank robbery conviction when he broke into Webb’s Cards and Collectibles in Knoxville in August of last year, stealing several boxes of cards and then selling the contents at a card show and over the internet.
Less than five weeks later, court papers say he drove to Lexington along with his “romantic partner” for the purpose of executing another burglary at Kentucky Roadshow Shop. Federal prosecutors say he dropped the woman off at a restaurant late one night, then drove to the shop and stole boxes of 2018-19 Donruss Optic, two Optic Asian Exclusive football boxes and additional merchandise. The total value of the theft there was about $10,000. That burglary was caught on the store’s security cameras.
The plea agreement states Cates then sold the stolen merchandise via Facebook Marketplace and elsewhere. Investigators say among the items he shipped out of state was a 1964 Topps Ernie Banks he sold to a collector in southern Indiana.
Less than two weeks later, Cates is accused of making the eight hour drive to New Buffalo, MI where in the middle of the night, he used a hammer to break into The Sports Card Shop, stealing more cards which he again sold either in person or online.
Cates wasn’t done yet, though, according to investigators. They say from October 4 through October 14, he and his partner made three trips from Knoxville to Cartersville, GA where he burglarized the same shop each time. Investigators say he smashed his way through a window at Breaking Bangers each time, stealing numerous boxes. During the third burglary, investigators say he made his way into the store’s main office and stole a much larger amount of merchandise.
Cates is then accused of selling some of the merchandise from the first two burglaries and shipping it to buyers. The agreement states he was arrested by police in Knoxville before he was able to sell any of the items he took from the final burglary on October 14.
In the plea agreement, Cates admitted the value of merchandise he stole and transported across state lines was between $250,000 and $550,000. The restitution amount owed to the four businesses, offset by some of the items that were returned by law enforcement, ranged from $2,500 to $226,886.
Cates is facing up to five years in prison, a fine and up to three years of supervised release.