LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) -- Collecting sports memorabilia is big business these days. In this Rip-Off Alert from Pittsburgh, here's what can you do to ensure you don’t end up falling victim to fakes.
Like most sports, baseball has generated a memorabilia business worth billions.
“I consider myself very knowledgeable about what a real one and a fake one is,” said fraud victim Mark Mench.
Mench, who has been an autograph collector for 30 years, says he is very confident that he can spot a fake. But that batting average took a hit recently from a man named Carl Myer.
“A Steve Prefontaine autograph you almost never see,” Mench said. “So, he advertised for things that almost everyone would be interested in who collects what I collect.
“The way he fooled me is because how he spoke. He knew dealers, he knew the business, he knew basically everything I knew about autographs, and I’ve collected 30 years.”
Based on these conversations, Mench bought several items -- cards for Roberto Clemente, Steve Prefontaine and Mel Ott.
“When the autographs came, I did recognize them as fake immediately and I tried to return them I attempted to contact him,” Mench said. “He actually threatened my life if I came near him, and basically I was left holding the bag.”
Mench was one of 56 victims who paid Myer more than $74,000 for items.
“Several sports collectors filed a mail fraud complaint with USPIS claiming they bought forged autographs,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Ryan Amstone. “A lot of the victims submitted those autographs to professional sports authenticators who confirmed they were in fact forgeries.”
Postal inspectors say when Mench filed a complaint, there already was a file started on Myer.
Myer was convicted in federal court on mail fraud charges and is serving a two-year prison sentence. He also was ordered to pay more than $65,000 in restitution.
“I’m glad he paid a price because I’m sure he fooled more people besides me,” Mench said. “I feel like I’m a person who would be hard to fool. It’s the first time in 30 (years) I’ve been fooled.”
Mench says the absolute best way to ensure not getting a fake is to seek out an athlete yourself and ask for the autograph.