Steven Jensen, co-CEO of Plymouth-based Vintage Sports, was busted in Chicago yesterday afternoon for selling fake game-worn jerseys to sports memorabilia collectors across the country. Jensen schemed to trick baseball fans into buying fake "authentic" baseball merchandise from July 2007 to July 2011, according to a federal complaint.
Investigators for the United States Postal Service began their investigation of Jensen last October, after a New Yorker contacted them to complain about a bogus $3,000 Alex Rodriguez jersey he'd ordered from Vintage Sports. The man had taken his "game-worn" 1995 Seattle Mariners jersey to a sports convention in January 2010 to get it signed by Rodriguez, whose handlers inspected it and told him the jersey was a fake.[jump]
The man called Jensen for a refund but Jensen refused to admit that the jersey was fake. Instead, he offered to re-auction the jersey and give him back his money -- if the jersey sold for at least $2,500 dollars.
When the jersey "only" sold for $1,220, Jensen mailed it back to the man without cash. The angry customer hired an attorney, who contacted United States Postal Inspectors. They marked it with special ink only visible under ultraviolet light, shipped it back to Jensen, and purchased it online after he continued advertising it as authentic and game-worn.
Investigators pulled off similar busts with what was supposedly a game-worn 1997 Oakland A's Mark McGwire jersey and a 2002 St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols jersey.
During their investigation, federal agents interviewed McGwire, Pujols, and baseball officials to check the authenticity of the jerseys and confirmed that the items for sale were bogus.
Jensen was at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago when agents came by his booth and arrested him. Postal Service inspectors are currently searching through the inventory at his warehouse in Plymouth. He has been charged with two counts of mail fraud. Jensen's co-CEO, who has not yet been named or arrested, is referred to as a co-conspirator in the complaint.
Phone calls to Vintage Sports Authentics were not returned.