Affiliates of Digital First Media of New York on Friday sued to recover the archives of 20 newspapers from John and Angelica Rogers.
The complaint, filed Friday in Pulaski County Circuit Court, alleges that both personally plundered the assets of Rogers Photo Archives to their benefit and the detriment of Digital First affiliates.
The lawsuit accuses John and Angelica Rogers of fraud, breach of contract and selling its copyrighted images, and Digital First asks for the return of the newspaper archives.
The Digital First complaint joins a growing series of fraud allegations leveled against Rogers by banks, business associates, clients and investors involving bogus transactions and counterfeit sports memorabilia.
The list began forming after FBI raids on his office and home on Jan. 28, 2014.
Not counting requested punitive damages by some angry creditors, financial claims against him and his business ventures total about $50 million.
The Digital First complaint alleges that Rogers "was not highly skilled, knowledgeable or experienced at successfully digitizing or scanning photographs using the business model he described to the plaintiffs."
Digital First alleges that Rogers knew the business model he described to its affiliates for the creation of their digital libraries was not economically viable or sustainable.
According to the complaint, seven of the Digital First publications had written agreements, and 13 did not. The complaint listed specific dates for some of the deals but not for others.
Most the Digital First archives appear to be in North Little Rock warehouses controlled by Michael McAfee, court-appointed receiver of the Rogers assets.
According to McAfee, three of the Digital First archives are in the possession of Doug Allen of Lansing, Illinois: the Salt Lake Tribune, Los Angeles Daily News and Berkshire Eagle, a deal that included the archive of the North Adams Transcript.
Allen, president and CEO of Legendary Auctions, pleaded guilty to crimes committed between 2001 and 2009 while working for another Chicago-area memorabilia dealer, Mastro Auctions. Allen was indicted on 14 counts of mail and wire fraud in July 2012. He pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud last year.
What's left of the Denver Post archive is in the possession of Mears Auction House in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to McAfee. The remaining original prints were consigned to Mears pre-receivership.
"This is one of the original archives and much, if not all, of the premium items contained in it have already been sold," according to McAfee.
Also named as defendants are Sports Cards Plus Inc. and various creditors who have claimed secured interests in the Digital First archives.
The seven Digital First newspapers with written agreements are:
Denver Post, Colorado
Nov. 21, 2013
Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Contra Costa Times, California
Oakland Tribune, California
San Jose Mercury News, California
Jan. 8, 2014
El Paso Times, Texas. The deal includes the archives of the Herald Post, owned by the University of Texas at El Paso.
Feb. 12, 2014
Salt Lake Tribune
The 13 Digital First affiliates without written contracts are:
Los Angeles Daily News
Torrance Daily Breeze
San Gabriel Valley Times
Whittier Daily News
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Redland Daily Facts
Hayward Daily Review, California
Tri-Valley Herald, California
East County Times, California
Alameda Times Star, California
The Argus, California
Dec. 12, 2013
St. Paul Pioneer Press
June 30, 2014
New Haven Register, Connecticut