Posted at: 10/21/2013 5:30 PM
Updated at: 10/21/2013 7:31 PM
If you're a sports memorabilia collector, you know how valuable signed merchandise can be. But what can you do to make sure you don't fall victim to scammers selling fakes?
One collector learned that you need to know who you're buying from to make sure you're not being taken.
America's popular pastime, the love of baseball, and like most sports, baseball has generated a memorabilia business worth billions.
Mark Mench said, “I consider myself very knowledgeable about what a real one and a fake one is."
Mark Mench has been an autograph collector for 30 years and is very confident he can spot a fake. But his batting average took a hit recently.
Mench said, "A Steve Prefontaine autograph you almost never see. So he advertised for things that almost everyone would be interested in who collects what I collect."
Mark is referring to Carl Myer.
Mench said, “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. He bought cards of Roberto Clemente, Steve Prefontaine and Mel Ott.
Mench said, “When the autographs came, I did recognize them as fake immediately and I tried to return them. I attempted to contact him. He actually threatened my life if I came near him and basically I was left holding the bag."
Ryan Amstone, U.S. Postal inspector, said, "Several sports collectors filed a mail fraud complaint with USPS claiming they bought forged autographs."
Mench was one of 56 victims who paid Myer more than $74,000 for items.
Amstone said, "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, they already had a file started on Myer.
Mench said, "Using the mail was his undoing."
Myer was prosecuted in federal court on mail fraud charges and is serving a two year prison sentence now.
Mench said, "I'm glad he paid a price because I'm sure he fooled more people besides me. I feel like I'm a person who would be hard to fool, it's the first time in 30 I've been fooled."
Myer was also ordered to pay more than $65,000 in restitution. It may be much more difficult, but Mench says the absolute best way to avoid getting a fake autograph is to get it directly from the athlete.