New York Giant Con Artists?

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It’s been a busy winter in East Rutherford, NJ. Rex Ryan signed an extension with the New York Jets. Metlife Stadium just hosted the Superbowl. And the New York Giants are being sued for defrauding sports collectors. That’s right, folks, impropriety among famous New Jersians doesn’t just happen in Fort Lee. According to the civil complaint filed in Bergen County, NJ, the Giants’ owners, equipment staff, and even Eli Manning were all part of a memorabilia scam that disguised Giants’ gear as “game worn” to generate higher profits when sold.  But to understand why plaintiff Eric Inselberg is so pissed at the Giants, we have to backtrack a couple years.

In 2007, Mastro Auctions held a sports auction in Cleveland where a Michael Jordan practice jersey from UNC was sold for $11,000. Several days later, Memorabilia Evaluation and Research Services concluded that the jersey was not worn by Jordan, but rather most likely by the less-heralded Tarheel, Ranzino Smith. One of the names that surfaced in the ensuing investigation was Eric Inselberg, a New Jersey collector who was claimed to have purchased the jersey as a Smith original, not as a Jordan.

Although no Federal charges were filed in connection with the Jordan jersey fiasco, the FBI kept a close eye on Inselberg and the exchange of high-priced sports memorabilia.  A few years later, they were led to the New York metropolitan area, where numerous New York Giants items were being sold as game-worn. Subpoenas were issued, a grand jury was summoned, and criminal charges against Inselberg were sought (read the Indictment here).

Inselberg maintained his innocence, arguing in part that the evidence which led to the criminal charges was unreliable because one of the witnesses who testified before the grand jury was lying. Seems like a hail mary thrown by his attorneys, right? Well on April 18, 2013, the Federal government dismissed its own indictment  “in light of some new facts that were pointed out by defense counsel.”

According to Inselberg, the fact pointed out to US Attorney Michael Love was proof that Giants staffers lied in their grand jury testimony on behalf of the Giants’ organization. Consequently, his criminal indictment was simply the result of an organization finding a simple scapegoat to take the blame for systemwide fraud.

One important question remains: Why the hell would a multimillion dollar professional football organization put its sterling reputation on the line to peddle fake memorabilia? As a Patriots fan, I’ve longed to see Eli Manning thrown behind bars. But is he really commanding equipment managers to defraud sports collectors? Seems a bit far fetched. This may be a case that stops with the Giants’ equipment manangers, Joe and Ed Skiba, who are also featured names in Inselberg’s Complaint. It may also be telling to see whether the Justice Department files any more charges in the matter. After all, lying to a Federal grand jury is perjury, and unlike past cases, this may be a situation the government can actually convert. Stay tuned.

Andrew Blancato (@BigDogBlancato) holds a J.D. from New York Law School, and is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. When he’s not writing, he is either clerking at a trial court in Connecticut, or obsessing over Boston sports.

Featured image courtesy of [Guian Bolisay via Flickr]



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