Thursday, June 28, 2012

California Man Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to Scheme to Sell Fake Babe Ruth Baseball Glove for $200,000

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Janice K. Fedarcyk, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), today announced that California resident IRVING SCHEIB pled guilty to trying to sell a 19th century baseball glove for $200,000 that he falsely claimed was owned by Babe Ruth. SCHEIB surrendered today in New York and pled guilty to one count of wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Robert P. Patterson.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Irving Scheib wove a fantastical tale in an attempt to exploit the iconic status of a legendary figure in the world of baseball, Babe Ruth, to make a quick buck. The peddling of counterfeit goods is a crime, and his plea today makes clear that it is a crime we will prosecute.”

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk said: “Unlike a work of art or other rare collectible, an item of sports memorabilia derives its value from its context. A baseball bat or glove is not inherently valuable; a bat or glove used by a famous athlete is. What the defendant attempted to sell was in fact a baseball glove. That the glove ever belonged to Babe Ruth was a complete and elaborately constructed fiction.”

According to the Complaint and Information filed in Manhattan federal court, as well as statements made during today’s court proceeding:

On January 12, 2012, SCHEIB purchased a 19th century baseball glove on eBay for $750 which was described as an “1890’s Full Web Workman Baseball Mitt.” At the time he bought the glove, SCHEIB knew that the glove had no connection to Babe Ruth.

Shortly after purchasing the glove on eBay, SCHEIB set out to resell the glove by fraudulently claiming that it was used by baseball legend Babe Ruth. Among other things, SCHEIB fraudulently told a sports memorabilia broker in Nevada that the glove was a family heirloom that was obtained directly from Babe Ruth. Specifically, he claimed that deceased Hollywood actor Robert Young, to whom SCHEIB is related by marriage, obtained the glove from Ruth. SCHEIB also sent fake documents to the memorabilia dealer corroborating this fabricated provenance, and falsely claimed in a letter that the glove “was gifted to Babe Ruth’s personal friend and Golden Era Star Robert Young in 1944. . .[and that Ruth] he was so affectionate towards this glove that he slept with it under his pillow at the orphanage.” These fake documents, in turn, were sent to an individual interested in purchasing the glove (the “Buyer”). After paying for the glove, the Buyer asked SCHEIB to notarize one of the letters attesting to the provenance that was signed by SCHEIB and purportedly signed by SCHEIB’s wife, who is Young’s granddaughter. SCHEIB refused to do so and the Buyer accordingly returned the glove.

Subsequently, SCHEIB repeated the same fabricated provenance for the alleged Babe Ruth glove over the telephone to someone he believed was another potential buyer in New York. That potential buyer was in actuality an undercover investigator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

SCHEIB, 50, of Bonsall, California, is charged with one count of wire fraud. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. He will be sentenced by Judge Patterson on October 30, 2012 at 4:00 p.m.

Mr. Bharara praised the work of the FBI.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason P. Hernandez is in charge of the prosecution.

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