Two of the five men who have pleaded guilty to mail fraud in connection with the sale of non-genuine game jerseys sold to well known card companies and collectors were sentenced in U.S. District Court on Wednesday.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, Brad Wells, one of the principals in Florida-based Authentic Sports, Inc., and Historic Auctions, was sentenced to six months in prison beginning January 6, 2014 while Steve Jensen, owner of Minnesota-based Vintage Authentics, received three years probation. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office told Sports Collectors Daily the sentences were handed down in a Rockford, IL federal courtroom.
Prosecutors say the sales in the various individual bogus jersey cases working their way through the court system totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars and took place over a roughly five-year period beginning in 2004.
Wells admitted to investigators in 2009 that he had obtained retail or game-issued jerseys and schemed with other dealers to alter them so they would appear game worn. The jerseys were sold to other dealers and to trading card companies which cut them up and used them to create memorabilia or ‘relic’ cards. Prosecutors say Wells and the others sometimes changed the shape of the jerseys and added patches or other identifiable marks to make them look game worn, thus increasing their value.
Panini America, which purchased Donruss in 2009 and acquired $125,000 worth of fake jerseys in the process, is asking for restitution of $3.7 million in the Wells case. Whether they get anything will be determined at a later date.
Federal agents say interstate carriers including UPS, were used to ship packages containing the misrepresented jerseys across state lines.
Wells could have received 27-33 months in prison but was cooperative with investigators who tried to piece the story together. Following his release from prison next June, Wells will spend three years on supervised release.
Jensen, who was arrested on the floor of the National Sports Collectors Convention in the summer 2011, avoided prison time after he cooperated with investigators but will spend the first four months in home detention with electronic monitoring. He was accused of selling some jerseys attributed to game wear by Major League Baseball stars that were actually just replicas. There was no indication that the jerseys sold by Jensen were sold directly to trading card companies. He was charged with selling three bogus jerseys to individuals.
Three other dealers, Brad Horne, Jarrod Oldridge and Bernard Gernay, have pleaded guilty for their role in the fake jersey scam and will be sentenced later this month in Rockford.