Sport Memorabilia Collector Faces Up to 20 Years for Memorabilia Fraud, Including Fake Heisman

An Arkansas sports memorabilia collector pled guilty in Chicago’s federal court to defrauding investors by selling fake and doctored items, even using a fake Heisman Trophy as collateral for a $100,000 loan.

As background, John Rogers sold fake sports memorabilia to his customers and secured loans by offering fake and inauthentic items as collateral. Rogers’ plea deal stated that he either “created the items himself or altered them to make them appear authentic.” Rogers admitted to defrauding the investors in his companies and the financial institutions that loaned him money to keep his businesses alive. Further, Rogers acknowledged that his defrauding scheme was “for personal gain,” and even stated that “I knew it was wrong, I did it anyway. . . I’m guilty of it.”

Between 2009 and 2014 Rogers’ scheme cost the individuals and banks that he defrauded between $9.5 million and $25 million. Notably, in the Heisman Trophy scheme, Rogers backed a $100,000 loan from an investor with what he claimed to be a Heisman Trophy worth between $175,000 and $225,000. Rogers claimed the trophy originally belonged to former University of Oklahoma player Billy Sims, who won the Heisman in 1978.

Rogers glued a nameplate on the fake Trophy to make it appear real, and even wrote a fake letter, allegedly from Sims, and sent the letter to the investor stating that the Trophy was valued up to $225,000. However, in reality, the trophy had been gifted to the master of ceremonies at the annual Heisman Trophy Banquet. While the investor was not identified in court documents, he is also suing Rogers in Arkansas, alleging that he lent Rogers more than $5 million to bankroll his sports memorabilia purchases.

Also, Rogers’ plea deal admitted his guilt in defrauding and cheating an Arkansas bank out of $3.5 million by manufacturing fake memorabilia to use as collateral for the bank’s loan.

Rogers’ guilty plea comes almost three years after the FBI raided his home and offices in North Little Rock, Arkansas, as part of an ongoing investigation targeting fraud in the lucrative world of sports memorabilia.

The Assistant U.S. Attorney on the case moved for the court to grant a significant amount of time to investigate the exact amount of money lost before Rogers’ case proceeds to sentencing. Rogers’ fraud count carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison, but the prosecution could ask for as little as seven and a half years if Rogers continues to cooperate in the investigation.

Rogers is scheduled to be sentenced on September 12, 2017.

After being charged, Rogers posted to Facebook, thanking the federal investigators “for saving him from a downward spiral of cocaine addiction.” He even noted that “[h]ad they not stepped in, I would be dead right now.”

This case illuminates to sports memorabilia collectors the importance of inspecting and authenticating the memorabilia before purchasing it, as the world of sports memorabilia can be quite shady, even if lucrative.


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