Minnesota man accused of selling fake MLB jerseys
The head of a Minnesota sports memorabilia company was charged
Thursday with orchestrating a scheme to sell fraudulent sports
merchandise online, including fake baseball jerseys he claimed were
worn during games by Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire and Albert
U.S. postal inspectors arrested Steven Jensen, chief executive
of Plymouth-based Vintage Sports Authentics, during a sports
collectors’ convention in Rosemont, Ill. He is charged in federal
court in New York City with one count of mail fraud and one count
of wire fraud.
Jensen, 40, of Osseo, and his company are accused of knowingly
auctioning off jerseys between July 2007 and last month that were
purportedly ”game used,” worn by prominent baseball players, but
were not authentic.
If customers independently learned the jerseys were fake and
returned them, Jensen allegedly re-auctioned them, authorities
said. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service did not immediately put a
dollar figure for the alleged scheme.
Messages left at Vintage Sports Authentics were not returned
Thursday. A message seeking comment also was left at a telephone
listing for Steven Jensen in Osseo.
Thomas Boyle, an assistant inspector-in-charge with the postal
inspection service, said no merchandise was seized from Jensen’s
booth at the National Sports Collectors Convention on Thursday.
Authorities also searched his company warehouse in Plymouth.
Vintage Sports Authentics auctions sports memorabilia
”purported to be authentic and genuine,” according to the
criminal complaint filed in New York.
In July 2007, the complaint said, one customer in the Bronx paid
more than $3,000 for a home Seattle Mariners jersey the company
said was worn by Rodriguez during the 1995 season. The customer
brought the jersey to a sports memorabilia show in New Rochelle,
N.Y., in January 2010 for Rodriguez to sign.
An authenticator at the show determined the jersey was fake
because the name plate fabric was different from the rest of the
jersey, the complaint said.
The complaint said Jensen stood by the jersey’s authenticity
when approached by the customer, who eventually returned the jersey
after a former Mariners equipment manager examined it and also
concluded it wasn’t genuine.
Vintage Sports Authentics re-auctioned the jersey online last
February, falsely stating it was the real thing, the complaint
In another online auction, an undercover postal inspector paid
$477 to buy an away Oakland Athletics jersey advertised as being
worn by McGwire in 1997. The agent spoke with several people to
determine the jersey was fake, including McGwire, according to the
The postal inspector showed McGwire a list of other memorabilia
offered by Vintage Sports Authentics, including a Home Run Derby
jersey purportedly worn by McGwire during the 1999 All-Star Game.
McGwire told the agent he still has his Home Run Derby jersey, the
The agent told Jensen the jersey was fake and returned it, and
his company offered it online again as genuine, the complaint
Vintage Sports Authentics also offered an away St. Louis
Cardinals jersey in February said to be worn by Pujols in 2002. But
Pujols told officials he still possesses the only two away
Cardinals jerseys issued to him for the 2002 season.
Christopher Cavalier, chief executive officer of Game Used
Universe, which hosts online auctions and collector forums, said
sports memorabilia collectors must educate themselves and examine
jersey stitching, lettering, manufacturer’s tags and other details
to determine an item’s authenticity.
”It’s an unregulated industry,” Cavalier said. ”There is a
lot of money to be made and if people aren’t educated, the
collector is the one who is going to lose out.”