NLR firm, owner’s home searched

FBI agents collect evidence from Rogers Photo Archive

Officials with the FBI carry boxes out of Rogers Photo Archive in North Little Rock on Tuesday afternoon.

FBI agents spent Tuesday morning searching the business complex and home of a prominent North Little Rock businessman.

Federal officials declined to elaborate why their agents were collecting evidence from Rogers Photo Archive, as well as the home of its owner, John Rogers. Rogers’ attorney said the agents were executing search warrants but that no explanation for the raids had been given.

“All we know is that the search warrants were [for] his home and at the business,” said Rogers’ attorney, Blake Hendrix. “The scope is … we don’t know what it is, and they’re not telling us.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, neither federal nor local officials reported any arrests connected to the federal operation.

Agents went in and out of unmarked cars parked outside Rogers Photo Archive at 2501 N. Poplar St. and Rogers’ home at 3700 Avondale Road.

Special Agent Kim Brunell, FBI spokesman for the Little Rock field office, would not offer any details nor confirm that agents had executed search warrants.

“We were present for official business,” Brunell said. “I can’t confirm why we’re there… just conducting operations at those locations.”

Cherith Beck, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office of the Eastern District of Arkansas, said she did not know about the federal investigation nor did she know of any public filings available in federal court.

Rogers’ 10-year-old company, which is reportedly the world’s largest privately held photographic image collection, has grown rapidly during the past few years. Starting as a sports-memorabilia collector, Rogers expanded his business to the point where the company has archived more than 120 million photographs and negatives, and more than 50 million digital-only images.

In early 2013, the company expanded its workforce to keep pace with the images submitted for storage and now has 90 employees in North Little Rock, 40 in Memphis and 200 more in India.

In May 2013, federal investigators went to Rogers’ aid after an internal audit revealed that more than 100,000 photographs gathered from newspapers and other organizations during the past decade, valued at about $2 million, were missing from the archive.

Two former employees, Christopher Jackson and Steve Roby, were arrested and charged with stealing the originals and selling them.

After an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service, both men pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In June 2013, Jackson was sentenced to 33 months in prison and Roby was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Arkansas, Pages 9 on 01/29/2014