Christmas is less than a week away but a federal judge may hand former sports memorabilia and photograph dealer John Rogers a big lump of coal on Wednesday. U.S. Attorney John Lausch is asking Judge Thomas Durkin to put the North Little Rock, Arkansas man in prison for over 13 years—and hand him a bill for $23.6 million in restitution to banks and others he owes.
In a supplemental sentencing memorandum filed Tuesday morning in Chicago, the government tacked 21 months onto its original request after an investigation revealed Rogers had been engaged in creating fake memorabilia even after pleading guilty in the case last March. Prosecutors say the new wave of his fraudulent activity “involved phony trophies, footballs, basketballs, and even a fake Mickey Mantle silverware set that Rogers and his coschemers sold to victims as authentic in exchange for thousands of dollars.”
Rogers is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in federal court.
“This sentence is substantial but takes into account the Ponzi scheme the defendant ran for years, the victims he defrauded, and the serious financial damage he inflicted on those victims,” stated Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek Owens in the court filing. “The defendant’s conduct in this case is serious, and his inability to accept responsibility for his actions and continue to commit more crimes while on bond speak volumes as to his disrespect for his victims and the rule of law.”
Prosecutors say Rogers “worked with two other individuals to commit more of the same illegal conduct that he had done in the past — defrauding sports memorabilia customers.”
Rogers pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud last March in connection with a Heisman Trophy award, but prosecutors have outlined a long list of complaints including bank loans Rogers was given that were based on phony collateral that included forged “agreements” with long-time collectors, fake trophies and baseball cards, bogus autographs and a trail of broken promises to victims who trusted him.
Rogers’ defense lawyer, Blake Hendrix, filed his own memorandum, asking for a 12-year sentence. He blamed much of Rogers’ troubles on a long-time drug addiction, a possible brain injury from playing football and a prescription for Aderall that impaired his judgment after he pleaded guilty.
“A great deal of the misconduct is true; some is not, but Rogers will explain his post-plea conduct to the court in allocution at sentencing,” Hendrix stated.
“Rogers is a complicated man. He slipped back into criminal conduct. He’s faced the demons of drug addiction and got help, but he’s relapsed at least twice. He lied when he was confronted with the new allegations, but, once again sober, he’s come to his senses and will accept responsibility for what he did. Is it too little, too late, or is it better late than never? Again, it’s complicated.”
Hendrix is asking the judge to release Rogers to his father while on electronic monitoring or home detention before he begins serving his sentence.