Update, 4:30 p.m.:
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox on Monday ordered the Pulaski County Sheriff to arrest alleged fraudster John Rogers of North Little Rock, but he had not been arrested as of late afternoon.
The embattled photo and sports memorabilia dealer is in contempt of court for failing to fully respond to discovery requests and file an affidavit of assets.
The court action stems from First Arkansas Bank & Trust of Jacksonville pursuing a January default judgment against Rogers that has grown to $15 million. Rogers also faces unspecified sanctions for contempt.
He has the option of posting bail of $1.46 million -- 10 percent of the default judgment entered against him in January.
He has drawn a series of fraud allegations by banks, business associates, clients and investors involving bogus transactions and counterfeit sports memorabilia. Not counting requested punitive damages by some angry creditors, financial claims against him and his business ventures total about $50 million.
In addition to these legal problems, Rogers is the subject of criminal investigation that erupted into the public when FBI raided his office and home on Jan. 28, 2014.
A contempt order in Pulaski County Circuit Court is in force against embattled photo and sports memorabilia dealer John Rogers that could land him in jail.
Rogers failed to respond to a court order to provide asset information to First Arkansas Bank & Trust of Jacksonville. The bank intends to seek his arrest if Rogers keeps stonewalling collection efforts on its $15 million judgment against him.
The 42-year-old alleged fraudster is trying to fend off an arrest warrant by invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. New allegations that Rogers used a phantom deal with Hearst Newspapers to bilk investors earlier this year also have come to light.
“If these allegations are true, this guy is a clear and present danger to anyone with a dollar,” said one insider familiar with the fictitious Hearst deal and other Rogers deals.
“There is no deal, period” with Rogers to purchase and digitize photos for the media giant or any of its subsidiaries, according to Hearst.
Hearst officials did meet with Rogers about a possible deal.
But those discussions came to naught because of concerns about the North Little Rock businessman, given the financial and legal problems that emerged after FBI raids on his office and home on Jan. 28, 2014.
According to documents obtained by Arkansas Business, Rogers even offered his Hearst deal in April to Red Alert Media Matrix Inc., the company that has made three progressively smaller offers to buy Rogers’ assets.
Rogers offered to give Red Alert the option to acquire his (nonexistent) interest in Hearst photo archives if Red Alert agreed to buy his interest in the L.A. News photo archives for $6 million.
Rogers has received top billing in a series of fraud allegations by banks, business associates and investors involving bogus transactions and counterfeit sports memorabilia. Not counting requested punitive damages by some angry creditors, financial claims against him and his business ventures total about $50 million.
Pleading the Fifth is an unusual but not unprecedented ploy to avoid complying with a court order in a civil lawsuit.
“He has not been charged with any crime, and post-judgment asset discovery (such as the name of his accountant(s) for the past three years) has nothing to do with any potential criminal charges,” said Roger Rowe, one of the attorneys for First Arkansas Bank & Trust.
Rogers was ordered to provide information on his financial affairs by May 30 to the bank, which in January landed a $14.5 million default judgment that has continued to grow with each passing day.
Brett Myers, the Dallas lawyer representing Rogers in his many noncriminal legal problems in Pulaski County, acknowledged the 30-day deadline passed without his client fully responding to the order.
“Mr. Rogers cannot answer the post-judgment interrogatories or execute the post-judgment affidavit based on the advice of his criminal counsel, due to his status as a target of an active FBI investigation,” Myers wrote in a June 3 letter to the court.
Blake Hendrix, criminal defense attorney for Rogers in Little Rock, said he wasn’t aware that his client decided to plead the Fifth in the First Arkansas lawsuit.
“I discussed various options with him, and it sounds like he and his civil lawyer decided to use it,” Hendrix said.
First Arkansas has sought a verified schedule of assets from Rogers since January after landing a default judgment against him.
The judgment is tied to four delinquent loans that Rogers personally guaranteed.
The bank’s financial relationship with Rogers dates back to December 2011, when it issued him a $7.1 million revolving line of credit and a $2.9 million loan.
The other two First Arkansas loans are tainted with allegations of fraud:
• June 22, 2012: $1.5 million used to buy the Hoffman collection, an eclectic archive of videos and thousands of digitized snapshots of 19th century advertisements and other historic images.
The bank later learned the actual purchase price was only $325,000. The loan was to be used exclusively to acquire the collection.
• April 3, 2013: $3.5 million used to help finance a purported $6 million acquisition of the Fritsch collection of old and rare baseball cards.
According to sources, the FBI deemed the cards counterfeit and seized the collection during its raid on Jan. 28, 2014.
Rogers used the collection efforts of First Arkansas to persuade Leo Bauby into loaning him $30,000 in late January. Bauby, a sports memorabilia collector from Dixon, Illinois, who had invested in past deals with Rogers, was deposed by Rogers’ creditors on April 3.
Records subpoenaed by the creditors included a Jan. 27 email conversation between Bauby and Rogers.
“Currently I am completely penniless after the bank did the sweep of my accounts,” Rogers said.
“My main concern is I currently owe my attorneys $16,000 … I also have another $8,000 in bounced checks because I found out that they swept the accounts before all my checks cleared. So now I am penniless with several hot checks attached to my name.
“When I totaled everything, I’m short about $25,000 currently plus need an additional $5,000 to just live for the next six weeks to pay rent, health insurance etc.”
First Arkansas collected less than $3,400 in its sweep of Rogers accounts, so if Rogers did bounce $8,000 in checks during January, garnishment wasn’t the underlying reason for his insufficient funds.
In a Feb. 7 email to Bauby, Rogers wrote: “Closed deal with Hearst. You and I won’t be out of photos for many years.”
In sworn testimony during the April deposition, Bauby said Rogers told him he had a signed contract for the photo archives of the San Francisco Chronicle and Houston Chronicle, two publications owned by Hearst Newspapers.
“He says he’s closed the deal. Has he told you that he closed the deal with Hearst?” asked Jess Askew, attorney for Michael McAfee, the court-appointed receiver of the Rogers assets.
“Yes,” Bauby said. “He said he had a signed contract.”
In a recent interview with Arkansas Business, Bauby said Rogers used the Hearst deal to placate him after failing to repay money in earlier deals.
“He was holding out the carrot that I was going to be processing those photos,” Bauby said. “He was winding me up to look for buildings, locations and talking about cost structures.
“But the more I would press him about that he would change the topic. He called back a week later and said, ‘You know what? I’m going to have my dad do it instead.”
Rogers even circulated a letter of intent in connection with his Hearst deal involving its San Francisco and Houston newspaper photo archives.
The terms in the document include a minimum annual payout of $250,000 to Hearst for each of the two photo archives over a 10-year period.
The document, dated Feb. 27, notes that Hearst Newspapers is excited about the opportunity to preserve and monetize an aging and deteriorating asset: its rich history of photographs. But apparently not with John Rogers.