A former Arkansas sports memorabilia dealer was taken into custody Monday after a federal court hearing in Chicago.
John Rogers' bond was revoked after the five-hour hearing, said Joseph Fitzpatrick, assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. Fitzgerald said Rogers, who was in the courtroom, was immediately taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service.
Fitzpatrick said he doesn't know where Rogers will be held until his Dec. 20 sentencing before U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin in Chicago.
Rogers pleaded guilty in March to one count of wire fraud.
According to federal court filings, Rogers was free on $100,000 unsecured bond. On Oct. 13, after a pretrial services violation report, Durkin admonished Rogers for violations of his bond conditions. On Nov. 13, Monday's bond-revocation hearing was scheduled.
According to a Nov. 7 sentencing memorandum from acting U.S. Attorney Joel Levin, Rogers continued his illegal activity after agreeing to cooperate with the FBI.
"Despite his agreement, he later sold fraudulent sports memorabilia, including phony Mickey Mantle baseball cards and the phony Scottie Pippen trophies," wrote Levin.
Pippen, who is from Hamburg in south Arkansas, spent the majority of his professional basketball career with the Chicago Bulls.
In early October, a person who had been in a romantic relationship with Rogers reported to police that Rogers had committed assault, wrote Levin.
This person described continued fraudulent activities committed by Rogers before and after his guilty plea, including creating phony sports memorabilia and selling it to others, wrote Levin.
"Individual 1 described all the hallmarks of a John Rogers fraud: forgeries, fake email accounts, fabricated memorabilia items, fake nameplates on trophies, and lies to prospective buyers," wrote Levin. "This included Rogers giving Individual 1 a script to use in trying to sell a phony Super Bowl I game ball they had created."
Levin recommended at least 141 months in prison for Rogers. He also wants the judge to order Rogers to pay restitution of $22,762,620 to his victims.
"For years, Rogers fooled the customers, investors, and banks he dealt with, presenting them with fake merchandise, phony contracts, and many, many lies," Levin wrote in a sentencing memorandum. "Rather than dealing with them honestly, Rogers was running a Ponzi scheme and stealing money to fund his extravagant lifestyle and failing business. In the end, his fraud caused well over $20 million in losses to his customers and investors."
Rogers operated two companies, Sports Card Plus and Rogers Photo Archive LLC.
According to Levin's Nov. 7 filing, Rogers admitted to "fraudulent" activity dating back to 2000, but he "was most heavily involved in the illegal conduct from 2005 to 2014."
In 2008, Rogers, then 35 and living in Little Rock, bought one of the most sought-after baseball cards in the world, a T206 Honus Wagner card, for $1.62 million, wrote Levin. Nicknamed "The Flying Dutchman," Wagner was a shortstop who played 21 seasons in Major League Baseball from 1897 to 1917.
"The card is considered the crown jewel in the sports memorabilia industry, and his purchase immediately put him on the map as a major player in the hobby," wrote Levin. "His name recognition also provided him with an opportunity to defraud individuals who believed the memorabilia he sold was authentic, and he took full advantage of their trust when he sold them fake memorabilia."
The next year, Rogers began acquiring vintage photographs from newspapers, beginning with the pre-digital archives of the Detroit News.
"His goal was to take thousands and thousands of photo negatives -- pieces of local, national, and international history -- that were collecting dust in the warehouses and archives of major newspapers, and digitize them," wrote Levin. "Some of these negatives were originally shot by newspaper photographers more than 70 to 80 years ago, and contained images that have not been published since."
Rogers' reputation rose with every deal he made to digitize newspaper archives.
"His celebrity brought a sense of pride to his hometown in Arkansas, where his business brought in jobs for local residents," wrote Levin. "He put people to work, donated money to little leagues and charities, and hosted fancy parties and fundraisers where he mixed with wealthy and influential people. All the while, Rogers lived a lavish lifestyle, building a five-story mansion in Little Rock from the ground up, with a pool with a grotto, batting cages, secret rooms and an elevator. He spent time staying in New York City and traveled around the world on business and pleasure."
But the cost to digitize the photo archives proved to be more expensive than anticipated, and estimated revenue on selling images from the negatives didn't come to fruition, wrote Levin.
Also, some of his sports memorabilia customers were becoming aware of the bogus merchandise he sold them and wanted their money back.
Rogers began using fake documents to convince investors that he had a lucrative deal that would return a profit, according to the sentencing memorandum.
Rogers created a fake document indicating he was going to digitize the photo archive of The Daily Oklahoman newspaper, according to the sentencing memorandum. He used that fake document to defraud an investor, identified as WH, out of more than $3.5 million, wrote Levin.
Another investor, identified as JC, gave Rogers $1.8 million in 2013 after Rogers presented a phony contract to purchase another sports memorabilia collection and a bogus estimate of the value of Rogers Photo Archive, according to Levin.
Rogers famously created a fake 1978 Billy Sims Heisman Trophy, which he used as collateral in some of his deals. Rogers had purchased an honorary 1960 Heisman Trophy for $50,363 and had a trophy shop make a fake nameplate so it would appear to be Sims' trophy.
Also as part of the scheme, Rogers secured loans of millions of dollars from several financial institutions in Arkansas, wrote Levin.
Metro on 11/21/2017
Print Headline: Ex-archivist's bond revoked by U.S. judge; U.S. attorney says Rogers selling phony memorabilia