Judge orders memorabilia huckster held in jail

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Heisman Trophy winner Jason White (center), a quarterback from Oklahoma, holds the Heisman Trophy with former Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winners Billy Sims (1978) (left) and Steve Owens (1969) at the Yale Club in New York on Dec. 13, 2003. | AP Photo/Kathy Willens

While awaiting sentencing for defrauding sports memorabilia collectors, John Rogers went back to the same well.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin ordered Rogers’ bond revoked after prosecutors detailed the notorious sports memorabilia dealer’s latest efforts to defraud collectors as he was out of jail waiting to be sentenced in a previous case.

“It looks like the same stuff to me,” said Durkin, who ordered Rogers into federal custody until his sentencing hearing, scheduled for Dec. 20.

Prosecutors argued for Rogers to be held because he presents “a danger to the community.” Durkin agreed.

“Danger to safety isn’t just physical danger,” Durkin said. “It’s danger of being defrauded. We’re not drawing on a blank slate.”

Sports memorabilia collector John Rogers | YouTube screen image

Sports memorabilia collector John Rogers | YouTube screen image

The feds charged Rogers in September 2016 and accused him of altering an honorary Heisman Trophy given to announcer Al Helfer in 1960 to make it look like the college football trophy won by Sims in 1978. Rogers then used the trophy as collateral on a $100,000 loan.

Rogers, of Arkansas, pleaded guilty to wire fraud last March.

Since then, he has worked on several more schemes, removing himself only slightly, Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek Owens said Monday.

“He continues to commit fraud,” Owens said. “It’s the same kind of fraud he admitted before.”

The crux of Owens’ argument Monday was a collection of orders to and receipts from a trophy shop in Little Rock, Arkansas.

On several occasions in the last two years, Owens said, Rogers went to the shop to order new engraved plates to put on trophies that he then passed off as pieces of classic sports memorabilia. Each time he went to the shop, he used a different name.

With his name in the news and now synonymous with fake memorabilia, Rogers worked with another man to facilitate the deals, often for thousands of dollars, Owens said.

It was unclear if the man — who has not been charged — was a willing participant in the schemes or if Rogers was using him without his knowledge, Owens said.

FBI Special Agent Brian Brusokas testified for more than three hours Monday. He told the court that Rogers’ ex-wife — “an amateur artist” — detailed plans in which Rogers would purchase sporting equipment. Together, and at Rogers’ instruction, they would then doctor various basketballs, footballs and other equipment to pass them off as legitimate.

“She said she really wasn’t a sports fan and was doing this under the direction of John Rogers,” Brusokas said.

Rogers’ ex-wife told Brusokas that the 18-month-long scheme started in 2016 and ended during the summer of 2017.

Brusokas added that he had tried for several months to reach Rogers’ ex-wife to interview her, but was unsuccessful. It was only after a domestic incident earlier this year did she agree to speak with him, he said. She talked willingly and did not ask for an attorney.

Movie memorabilia, including a gun purported to be used by Samuel L. Jackson in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” was also called into question.

Rogers’ father was present in court as well. Before the ruling, he said that he would act as Rogers’ third-party custodial guardian until his sentencing hearing.

“I would love nothing more than to take him back with me tonight,” said Ron Rogers, who lives in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Ron Rogers said he was concerned that, if incarcerated, his son would not be afforded the drug and alcohol treatment he needs. After Durkin made his ruling, he assured Ron Rogers that the services would be available to his son.

Addressing Ron Rogers, Durkin said: “I believe every word you say. The fact is these crimes are not things you can prevent.”

As U.S. Marshals walked toward John Rogers to take him into custody, he looked at his father, smiled and mouthed the phrase “It’s OK” while giving him a thumbs-up.

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