A former Presbyterian minister in Little Rock who helped sports memorabilia dealer John Rogers make millions of dollars by fraudulently selling everyday items represented as valuable collectibles was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in federal prison.
John Alexander McLean, 59, was also ordered to repay $203,966 in restitution to 10 people he was responsible for defrauding. U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. named nine of the people, who are owed amounts ranging from $5,300 to $48,216, and one other person, name unknown, who was defrauded of $3,700.
McLean, represented by attorney Darrell Brown Jr., pleaded guilty in October to a single count of wire fraud related to an Aug. 3, 2016, wire transfer of $9,000 from a Paragon Auctions bank account to his own account at the Arkansas Federal Credit Union. However, his sentencing took into account all relevant conduct related to a fraud scheme that he admitted he helped Rogers carry out from June 2016 through November 2017.
Brown asked Moody to impose a sentence below the 21- to 27-month range recommended by federal sentencing guidelines, and specifically asked for a probation-only sentence. He argued that this was McLean's first offense, it was a nonviolent crime and that the former Presbyterian minister of 13 years has the support of several fellow ministers who wrote letters to the court on his behalf. Also, Brown said, McLean is employed full-time as a supervisor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and part-time at Kroger, which gives him the opportunity to make payments toward the restitution.
McLean addressed the judge from a courtroom table, saying, "I clearly lost my bearings in my dealings with John Rogers." He said he knows it was wrong to claim that he and his father had owned items that Roger was trying to sell and could vouch for their worth. McLean falsely told prospective buyers that his father obtained some of the items from his connection with famous football coaches.
"I'm incredibly ashamed of myself," he said, adding, "There are no excuses for what I did."
Moody asked how much restitution he has paid so far, to which McLean replied, "None, sir."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron McCree asked Moody to reject the request for probation and impose a sentence within the guideline range, arguing that "$203,000 is a substantial amount of money," that the scheme lasted "well over a year," and that when it started, McLean knew that Rogers was in trouble with the law.
McCree noted that Amber Michelle Davis, 44, who was recently sentenced by another judge to three years' probation for helping create some of the fake items that Rogers sold, had a "minor role" in the scheme compared with McLean and caused a smaller amount of loss -- $60,000. She has been ordered to make full restitution to five people altogether and to also perform 150 hours of community service work.
"Mr. McLean was out actually dealing with the victims here and selling the story," McCree said, adding that he believes a prison sentence is "appropriate" for McLean.
The prosecutor said that not only did the victims buy items that weren't legitimate, but some of them later sold the items to others for high prices, "so there is still harm being done."
Moody sided with McCree, telling McLean, "You defrauded nearly $204,000 from nine separate people over a lengthy and fairly complex fraudulent scheme."
He ordered McLean to report to a federal prison by 2 p.m. April 8.
Rogers of North Little Rock is serving a 12-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2017 in Chicago to scheming to defraud banks and investors out of $25 million, in part by using a doctored Heisman Trophy as collateral for a $100,000 loan. He once owned Sports Card Plus and Rogers Photo Archive in North Little Rock.
Metro on 03/19/2020