$2 million Ebay sports autograph fraud uncovered in the Valley
Four Valley residents have pleaded guilty to their roles in what investigators say is the biggest case of domestic fraud in the history of the online auction site Ebay.
Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Martin Desmond tells 21 News that the four men convicted are only small players in an alleged enterprise involving phony autographs on sports memorabilia that cheated 25,000 people out of more than $2-million.
Daniel Martini, 29, of Girard, who operates the Martini Burger Bar, pleaded guilty in Mahoning County Common Pleas court to money laundering.
James Serenko, 33, of Youngstown, Jason Lenzi, 31, of Columbiana, and Shawn Pelo, 26, of Warren, all pleaded guilty to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
Desmond says the four will be placed on probation and are cooperating with the investigation.
Those involved in the alleged scheme would obtain footballs, posters, sports cards and other sports memorabilia that had been forged with the names of professional athletes.
Investigators say that certificates of authenticity were also forged to accompany the memorabilia, which would be sold on ebay.
The money made from the sales was allegedly laundered through bank accounts belonging to other people.
Desmond says he expects three or four others to be convicted in the coming weeks, and followed by an indictment of the alleged mastermind behind the scheme, as well as his mother.
The assistant prosecutor says the others, who are all Valley residents, could face prison time.