I'd love to see Stan and his whole crooked family rot in jail.
GUILTY PLEAS ENTERED IN FORGERY CASE
A prominent purveyor of fake autographs is close to facing justice as the Fitzgerald family – Stan, his wife Donna and mother Josephine – pled guilty Sept. 30 to felony charges stemming from the sale of forged sports memorabilia. The Fitzgeralds, from Caldwell, N.J., and operators of Stan’s Sports Memorabilia during the 1990s, pled guilty to the charges in San Diego federal court, home of the FBI’s Operation Bullpen investigation, which has been overseen by San Diego-based FBI agent Tim Fitzsimmons.
The Fitzgeralds were charged four and a half years after Bullpen’s primary raids shut down their business and more than 50 others on Oct. 13, 1999. For a variety of reasons – among them the work-flow crunch on federal prosecutors – the Fitzgeralds almost “walked” despite almost five years of fake-autograph sales and anywhere from $2.5 million to $7 million in fake-autograph revenue, as a five-year statute of limitations loomed this month. But assistant U.S. attorney Melanie Pierson was able to get charges filed in April.
Stan Fitzgerald, 37, pled guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud. Because of the dollar amount involved, he faces a federal guidelines recommendation of 70-87 months in jail, along with a fine. Donna Fitzgerald, also 37, pled guilty to aiding and abetting tax evasion, admitting she failed to declare $100,000 in income from the sale of counterfeit memorabilia. She faces a recommended 12-18 months in jail. Josephine Fitzgerald, 61, pled guilty to assisting the preparation of false tax returns with federal guidelines recommending 10-16 months in jail.
Sentencing is set for Jan. 10, and Judge Larry Burns made it clear the sentencing judge does not need to follow the guidelines. “He may follow the recommendation, he may listen to your counsel, he may listen to Ms. Pierson, but he’s not bound to do that,” Judge Burns said. It’s very possible that each of their sentences could be lighter than even the lowest recommendation jail term, especially for each woman.
Unfortunately for collectors, while assets seized from the Fitzgeralds were valued in an FBI press release at more than $2 million, only $19,326 in restitution was ordered. At this point, the restitution will only be available to the seven victims who assisted Fitzsimmons and Pierson during this specific investigation and, according to Pierson, have items the FBI has been able to confirm were forgeries. In other words, there will very likely not be a method of applying for restitution for those victims who are not contacted by the court, although Pierson suggested collectors who believe they have a claim for restitution can contact the Victim/Witness Coordinator’s office at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego for instructions on how to proceed.
Stan’s Sports Memorabilia sold both real and fake memorabilia, the latter being primarily provided by the Marino family, the well-documented group that included the forgers and several of the key distributors of the fake material. Stan Fitzgerald told the judge that he sent items to an address in San Diego to have the phony signatures applied, but didn’t know the specific person performing the forgery. “(I) utilized the service. At the time, I did not know (where the forger was),” Fitzgerald told the judge. The Fitzgeralds sold a wide variety of fakes from both current players and deceased legends during the period from November 1995 to October 1999. Along with those fakes came bogus certificates of authenticity.
Both Donna and Josephine Fitzgerald admitted to the judge they knew Stan was selling fake autographs.
Along with still-unspecified fines, back taxes and the restitution, the Fitzgeralds will forfeit their two primary Caldwell homes, plus a third residence that Donna told the judge they purchased about a week after the October, 1999, raid on their business.
– Rocky Landsverk, reporting from San Diego