Police break up fake sports memorabilia racket in Valley

Police break up fake sports memorabilia racket in Valley

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Local police, the FBI and Mahoning County Prosecutors have broken what they say is a fraud case with thousands of victims all across the country.

One by one Shawn Pelo of Warren, Jason Lenzi of Columbiana, James Serenko of Austintown, and Daniel Martini of Girard all pleaded guilty Friday to their roles in what prosecutors say was a fraud case with more than 20,000 victims nationwide. Their take was between $1.5 million to $2.5 million over a five year period, according to Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Marty Desmond.

Desmond said the “organization” dealt in phony sports memorabilia containing forged signatures of athletes, which was sold on eBay.

“They even took it so far as to start forging authentication letters, certificates of authentication that they sent with the item,” Desmond said.

In some cases, prosecutors say the suspects gained access to the online sale website using the accounts of friends and relatives or they simply made up account information. Martini, co-owner of the Federal restaurant in downtown Youngstown, is accused of using his account and is now charged with money laundering.

“He allowed it to be used by the main individual who has not yet been charged. When the money was deposited into his bank account, he knew that it was illegal proceeds,” Desmond said.

More charges are expected in the case as investigators continue to piece together their case.

“There are probably people out there who are very satisfied with what they have and think that they have something that is authentic and they don’t,” Desmond said.

Desmond said those who suspect fraud should contact eBay and file a claim.

Sentencing for Pelo, Lenzi, Serenko and Martini is set for a later date.

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