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Home arrow Forgery News arrow Feds Charge Sports Memorabilia Dealer

Feds Charge Sports Memorabilia Dealer Print E-mail
Written by Autograph Collector's Daily   
Wednesday, 08 September 2010

citizenvoice - A Mountain Top businessman whose sports memorabilia store in the Laurel Mall near Hazleton was shut down in June has been charged by federal authorities with trafficking counterfeit merchandise.

Salvatore Argo, 35, is scheduled to face preliminary examination Oct. 7 at 2:30 p.m. in the Max Rosenn U.S. Courthouse, Wilkes-Barre.

The charges were filed in U.S. District Court on June 5, but the criminal complaint, the affidavit and the arrest warrant were sealed by the court to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation and to ensure the safety of investigators.

According to court documents, Argo “did intentionally traffic and did attempt to traffic in (counterfeit) goods, namely Reebok, Majestic, Mitchell and Ness sports jerseys of National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and National Football League sports teams and unlicensed sports photographs of professional NFL players.”

Local sports fans knew something was amiss on June 5 when Argo’s Laurel Mall store was scheduled to host three Philadelphia Eagles football players in a highly publicized public autograph session. Fans lined up outside Argo’s “The Sports Scene” in the mall with pre-paid tickets to meet the Eagles’ DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, Jeremy Maclin and Nate Allen. The football players arrived, but then left abruptly without signing any autographs. The store closed, and the fans — who paid up to $99 for the autographs — went home empty-handed.

According to court documents, agents seized 457 unlicensed NFL jerseys and 818 unlicensed NFL photos at the store. An additional 511 unlicensed NFL photos, six counterfeit MLB jerseys and an NFL Mitchell & Ness jersey were confiscated from Argo’s vehicle.

In a telephone interview Monday, Argo said many of the seized items did not belong to him, but were sent to him by other sports memorabilia dealers from across the country. He said he offered the dealers the opportunity to have articles autographed during the event at the Laurel Mall store.

“The boxes of jerseys had the other dealers’ names on them. I didn’t inspect every item to make sure they were licensed. They were sent to me by other dealers,” Argo said.

He also said the sheer number of items listed sounds worse than it is.

“The court papers say over 800 unlicensed photos. It was a box of photos,” Argo said.
Argo said he refunded the money to everyone who paid for tickets to the autograph session. Cancellation of the event cost him about $50,000 in fees paid to the players for their appearance, advertising costs and refunds to disappointed fans, Argo said.

“I tried to do something good for the community. I risked my financial future to bring these players to Hazleton. The sad part is, they did it at the expense of the fans,” Argo said of the raid.

Argo was arraigned on June 14 and released on his own recognizance.

Although preliminary examination is scheduled for Oct. 7, Argo said Monday the court date may not be necessary.

“We came up with a plea agreement on Friday,” Argo said.

In exchange for a guilty plea, Argo said he is prepared to accept a sentence of 15 to 22 months in federal prison.

The proposed plea agreement must be approved by the judge.

As part of plea negotiations, Argo said federal investigators offered a degree of leniency in exchange for the names of other counterfeit merchandise dealers. He told investigators there are many dealers who sell unlicensed merchandise on online auction sites.

Argo pleaded guilty to selling unlicensed items in June 2002. He was sentenced to two years probation and paid restitution of $1,723, according to court documents.

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