Sports Memorabilia Executive Pleads Guilty to $9.5 Million Fraud Scheme
CHICAGO — The owner of a sports memorabilia company admitted in federal court today that he conducted a fraud scheme using forged documents and phony sports memorabilia, including a doctored Heisman Trophy and fake baseball cards that he used as collateral on loans.
JOHN ROGERS, 44, of North Little Rock, Ark., pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. The conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin scheduled a sentencing hearing for Sept. 12, 2017, at 10:00 a.m.
The guilty plea was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Rogers admitted in a plea agreement that he carried out a fraud scheme between 2009 and 2014 through his two Arkansas-based businesses, Sports Card Plus and Rogers Photo Archive LLC, resulting in losses of more than $9.5 million to investors, customers and financial institutions.
In order to obtain money from investors, Rogers falsely represented that he had secured contracts to purchase certain collections of sports memorabilia and newspaper photograph archives his company would sell at a profit, according to the plea agreement. Rogers showed the investors contracts for collections and archives even though he knew the deals never actually existed because the contracts were forgeries that Rogers created to deceive them.
Rogers also admitted in the plea agreement that he sold various sports memorabilia that he knew was not authentic because he had either created the item himself or altered it to make it appear legitimate. For example, in February 2012 Rogers paired an altered Heisman Trophy with phony certifications to secure a $100,000 loan from an investor, according to the plea agreement.
Rogers also used other fraudulent contracts and fake sports memorabilia to secure more than $4 million in loans from multiple financial institutions in Arkansas, the plea agreement states. Rogers admitted in the plea agreement that he used fraud proceeds he received from investors and financial institutions to repay customers who detected his sale of fraudulent sports memorabilia. Rogers provided customers with fraudulent certificates of authenticity, as well as fraudulent hologram stickers from a major auction house, the plea agreement states.
The government is represented by Assistant United States Attorney Derek Owens.