PITTSBURGH - Collecting sports memorabilia is big business these days. but what can you do to ensure you don't end up falling victim to con-artists selling fakes?
"I consider myself very knowledgeable about what a real one and a fake one is," said Mark Mench.
Mench has been an autograph collector for 30 years and is very confident he can spot a fake. But, let's say his batting average took a hit recently.
"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," explained Mench.
The "he" Mench is referring to is Carl Myer.
"The way he fooled me is because how he spoke," said Mench. "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. Cards for Roberto Clemente, Steve Prefontaine and Mel Ott.
"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," said Mench.
"Several sports collectors filed a mail fraud complaint with USPIS claiming they bought forged autographs," explained US Postal Inspector Ryan Amstone.
Mench was one of 56 victims who paid Myer more than $74,000 for items.
"A lot of the victims submitted those autographs to professional sports authenticators who confirmed they were in fact forgeries," said Amstone.
Postal inspectors say when Mench filed a complaint, they already had a file started on Myer.
"Using the mail - was his undoing," said Mench.
Myer was prosecuted in federal court on mail fraud charges and is serving a two-year prison sentence now. He was also ordered to pay more than $65,000 in restitution.
"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," said Mench.
Mench adds the absolute best way to ensure not getting a fake is to seek out an athlete yourself and ask for the autograph.
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