Even the conservative assessment by a court-appointed receiver proved to be overly optimistic regarding the insolvent business interests of John Rogers, whose Facebook page recently offered up what read almost like a confession.
The income-producing ability of the photo archives and sports memorabilia flotsam of the alleged serial fraudster is so anemic that Michael McAfee is seeking to rework the terms of his engagement.
During 2015, the varied Rogers ventures produced less than $310,000 of revenue and finished more than $66,000 in the red.
How could this raggedy operation be the same thriving enterprise that Rogers once touted to the media and others?
♦ In July 2011, Rogers told the New York Post that his business pulled in about $9 million in revenue during 2010.
♦ Two months later, he told Editor & Publisher he would generate $11 million in revenue from photo sales during 2011.
♦ In October 2012, he told the Arkansas Times that he was bringing in $120,000 a week from eBay alone.
But behind the scenes, Rogers was rebuffing requests from bankers to produce audited financial statements and hire a chief financial officer. Lawsuits would eventually show that he was augmenting corporate cash flow with phantom deals that lured investors and lenders to give him millions of dollars.
A forensic audit later revealed a mismanagement mess after he was pushed out of the company by creditors two years ago. The fiscal norm at Sports Cards Plus was expenses exceeding revenue, an imbalance kept from tipping by investors and debt until 2014.
Rogers awaits the criminal reckoning expected from a federal investigation based out of Chicago. That probe launched the raid on his North Little Rock business and home on Jan. 28, 2014.
Blake Hendrix, criminal defense lawyer for Rogers, said he has no updates on his client’s legal situation.
“It’s just at a standstill,” Hendrix said. “There’s nothing new to report. They’re doing what they’re doing or what they’re not doing.”
But an April 7 entry on Rogers’ Facebook page suggested that he is preparing to take a plea.
“I regretfully made some really poor decisions to save my company when the economy went south. For those poor decisions, I will be separated from you all. I will be admitting guilt soon and given a sentence of incarceration. It is nobody’s fault but my own. But I felt compelled to make this post because I know I will be separated from you all for a long period of time.”
Contacted by Arkansas Business, Rogers would neither confirm nor deny he was the author. Rogers was in full domineering conversation mode, interested only in talking about a lawsuit against him that fell by the wayside in March. The 2015 case against Rogers individually was dismissed for lack of activity.
(More: See the end of this article to read the full Facebook post.)
John Conner Jr. of Newport and his Holden-Conner Farms Inc. and Newport Archives Inc. last year obtained a consent judgment against Sports Cards Plus for nearly $9.6 million in the case.
The complaint, including allegations of fraud, was tied to a series of delinquent loans that Rogers personally guaranteed.
Why did Conner let the case go dormant? Spending more time and money in hopes of getting money from a threadbare Rogers was deemed fruitless.
As detailed in lawsuits against him, others believe his mismanagement is what killed the company without assistance from the economy. Poor decisions also allowed him and his family to live large while the business cratered.
The fun included fabulous trips, with a 2012 sojourn in Bora Bora among the most memorable; an awesome condo overlooking New York’s Central Park, leased for more than $10,000 a month; and a grand 12,449-SF manor, built for more than $2 million in 2010.
His trips abroad are history since his passport was surrendered to the court last year. His travel is restricted to in-state only, monitored by a court-ordered ankle bracelet. The Manhattan high-rise pad is no more. The Park Hill mansion has gone the way of foreclosure.
These days, Rogers is relying on the financial goodwill of friends and family. He’s living in rented quarters in Little Rock’s Hillcrest neighborhood. It’s a different address than the bogus one Rogers gave North Little Rock police when he was pulled over and arrested in December on charges of burglary and theft of property.
That case is in limbo, much to the chagrin of McAfee.
He filed the complaint after security cameras captured Rogers making a midnight visit to his former office back in August and allegedly taking three 5-terabyte hard drives.
North Little Rock police recovered two of the three hard drives from Rogers during his arrest. The hard drives he allegedly stole from the Sports Cards Plus office at 115 E. 24th St. contained more than a million scanned photographs with metadata valued at $364,167.
“I think the prosecutor has made this a low priority,” McAfee said. “I don’t understand the criminal justice system. The federal side is no better.”
The FBI investigation for bank fraud and counterfeit sports memorabilia is tied to $50 million in creditor-investor claims in a string of civil cases against Rogers.
His latest misadventure with law enforcement and the courts occurred on March 29 but is lightweight in comparison.
Rogers was ticketed by Little Rock police for driving the wrong way down a one-way street. The midafternoon traffic stop at Third and Brown also resulted in a ticket for driving with a suspended driver’s license.
Counting the Cost
McAfee’s outlook for bringing value to the remaining assets of Rogers on behalf of creditors began to turn murky in the fourth quarter of 2015.
“Due diligence to assess the physical inventory is proving more difficult than initially thought,” McAfee said in his report to the court. “This process is still continuing, and it is hoped that proposals for the purchase of selected archives should be forthcoming. The prospect of one buyer purchasing all the assets of the receivership does not look probable at this time.”
The court-appointed receiver has entertained 11 prospective buyers since he entered the picture in January 2015. Creditors hoped someone would step up to the plate with a big, bona fide offer, but that didn’t happen.
Plans are shifting to sell whatever pieces of the business can be sold with his work winding down by year’s end.
“I don’t see it continuing beyond 2016, maybe into the first quarter of 2017, unless there’s a radical change,” McAfee said. “My crystal ball in this whole thing has been incredibly cloudy.
“There was so much perceived value because of all the appraisals [commissioned by Rogers]. The creditors have put a significant amount of money in the business. The perception was that it was worth X, but it’s going to be worth X minus a significant number.”
With the support of Rogers’ lead creditor, First Arkansas Bank & Trust of Jacksonville, McAfee is asking for court approval of a new payment formula for his services.
He is asking for a monthly fee of $8,500 that will be deducted from his 5 percent commission on any sales.
McAfee collected only $14,375 for his share of sales during 2015. Weighed against 817 hours of work, that translates to about $17.60 per hour.
Rogers in Receivership*
|2015 1Q||2015 2Q||2015 3Q||2015 4Q||2016 1Q|
*Represents the operations and assets of Sports Cards Plus Inc., Planet Giant LLC, Digital Stock Planet LLC and Photo Archive Partners along with the sports and celebrity memorabilia and collectibles of John Rogers and his ex-wife, Angelica Rogers, overseen by the court-appointed receiver, Michael McAfee.
Source: Pulaski County Circuit Court
April 7 Post to John Rogers' Facebook Page
Wrestled with sharing this the last 24 hours but Ive decided that if it reaches or creates a positive change in just one person, then my hesitation in exposing myself and my truth is worth it. Here goes...we've all heard the phrase, "live like your dying" or, "live like theres no tomorrow", but do we ever really? When I have personally said those phrases, it was usually to justify some reckless addict behavior. But what if, every second, every minute, every hour of every day, we truly embraced life as if we knew we would be leaving soon? We wouldn't stress over things like money, perceived slights, a passed over promotion at work, a relative or friend we felt wronged us. Having the knowledge we were leaving this world, we not only wouldn't waste time and energy in such trivial issues, we would embrace and love everyone that was half way important to us. We would tell everyone we loved them, I imagine we would call old aquaintances that we had lost contact with and thank them for being a friend or lending a hand. We would track down everyone of our elementary school teachers and thank them for emparting wisdom and knowledge in us at such a young age. We would thank every coach who sacrificed their own time to positively influence us and teach us the value of hard work. My guess is ex wives and ex husbands would receive thank yous for the good times and apologies for our trangressions. I would attempt to locate and thank the Sunday school teacher who first read us John 3:16. The ex boyfriend who wronged us would be told goodbye and we would laugh together at the glory days. We would forgive ourselves for not living up to our full potential and I would go kneel at my grandfathers graves who showed me such love. We would do things we enjoyed but had long sense neglected because life got busy. We would hold our children tightly and run our fingers over the faded ink that 3 year old girl put on the couch that, at the time, made us enraged. We would enjoy our kids being too loud and gladly pick up their little shoes and toys they left out, that just last week got our blood pressure up. We would actually enjoy our uncle who always has a few too many beers and embarrasses us. We wouldnt care as much if the Cowboys or Arkansas won or lost, wed just enjoy the game and the gathering of friends. So, when we feel our seperation from loved ones is near, as they lay in hospice, why is it only then that we pour our hearts out to them and tell them how great they are? My truth is this....everyone has followed my story in the press and most everyone I encounter is confused and, God bless you all, convinced Im getting a raw deal.While not all that has been written is true, plenty is. I regretfully made some really poor decisions to save my company when the economy went south. For those poor decisions, I will be separated from you all. I will be admitting guilt soon and given a sentence of incarceration. It is NOBODYS fault but my own. But I felt compelled to make this post because I know I will be separated from you all for a long period of time. I know when I report, it will be the last time I see many elderly relatives. Yesterday morning I went in to wake my son for school. The room was silent and I could hear his sweet breathing. In that moment, I realized that soon, I will lose the ability to wake him in the morning. So, I sat down on the floor in the darkness and listened to him breathe for 20 minutes and it was the most beautiful thing Id ever heard. It dawned on me that I could have been doing this every day the last 15 years. I realized that there is a blessing in knowing I am leaving....I get to truly live and embrace life as if there is no tomorrow because very soon, I will lose so much. Instead of feelimg sorry for myself, I am grateful. I encourage everyone to experience what I did sitting on that floor in the darkness yesterday morning. It doesnt have to be listening to your child breathe, it can be kissing your spouse like its the last ever. It can be, right now, you can spend the evening calling friends and family and telling them how much you care. I encourage everyone to call those you have had falling outs with and apologize if it is due and forgive if needed. Embrace life as if there is no tomorrow because it could be. Dont wait until you have cancer or are heading for incarceratuon (i hope its only me!) Dont wait until they call you first. Let your guards down, tear down the walls, forgive, hug, splurge, embrace the stresses. And most importantly, love and forgive yourselves because there was only one who was perfect. I love you all.