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Major sports collector facing wire fraud charges

The U.S. Attorney for the District of Northern Illinois has filed an eight-page criminal information document alleging a major sports memorabilia collector defrauded investors, customers and banks of more than $10 million. The wire fraud charges stem from an investigation by the Chicago FBI. The document claims, among other things, that the collector used a counterfeit Heisman Trophy to secure a $100,000 bank loan.

Prosecutors allege that the collector inflated company revenue and assets by using forged letters of authenticity and counterfeit memorabilia. He allegedly took money on the pretense that it would be used to digitize and sell the photographs he'd collected by working with newspapers and then used the funds to cover business and personal expenses or to pay previous investors back. Federal investigators raided the collector's home and offices in January 2009.

The alleged Heisman Trophy scheme involved the collector removing the nameplate from a replica that had been given to an emcee at the Downtown Athletic Club and replacing it with a nameplate to make it seem it was the trophy that was given to University of Oklahoma running back Billy Sims in 1978. The collector also allegedly created a counterfeit letter of authenticity and made it look like Sims had written it.

Because of the type of filing made by prosecutors in the case, it is expected that the collector may be planning to enter a guilty plea. Individuals facing criminal charges may want to consult an attorney for advice or assistance. An attorney with experience defending clients who have been charged with this type of fraud may be able to help by examining the facts of the case and looking for weaknesses in the prosecution narrative.

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