Sports are a big business and so is the business of sports memorabilia. In the world of sports memorabilia, fans looking for the right memento have to be aware of fake souvenirs. A Twin Cities man who is the owner of a sports memorabilia company in Plymouth, Minnesota was arrested last week on white collar crime charges related to selling bogus jerseys.
The 40-year-old from Osseo was charged last Thursday for selling fake jerseys supposedly worn by well-known professional athletes. The sport memorabilia proprietor was arrested at a sports collectors’ convention in Illinois and was charged with mail fraud and wire fraud. The 40-year-old man and his company are accused of purposely auctioning jerseys supposedly worn by high-profile athletes during games but were not authentic over the last five years. Jerseys that were returned by customers who figured out the jerseys were not authentic were resold to other patrons.
The sports memorabilia industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry, but there is a lot of fake merchandise out there according to an agent who represents multiple NFL players. According to the agent, a jersey that has been played in will not look fresh. Players the agent represents also issue letters of authentication that verify the date and game the jersey was worn. A sports memorabilia collector warns that letters of authenticity can also be fake and suggests fans know who they are buying from and ask where the seller got the memorabilia.
The criminal complaint against the Twin Cities memorabilia company owner claims a customer from the Bronx in 2007 paid $3,000 for a home jersey of the Seattle Mariners worn by Alex Rodriguez during the 1995 season. The customer brought the jersey to a sports memorabilia show in 2010 for Alex Rodriguez to sign, but an authenticator at the show determined the jersey was a fake because the fabric used for the name was different than the rest of the jersey.
The jersey was returned by the customer to the Plymouth-based company but the fake jersey was later resold again as authentic in February.
Source: Star Tribune, “Sports jerseys lead to arrest,” Dan Browning and Mary Lynn Smith