John Rogers, the former high-flying sports memorabilia and photo dealer from North Little Rock, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in Chicago's U.S. District Court Monday afternoon.
Rogers, 44, explained the motivation for his criminal misdeeds to U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin at the change of plea hearing.
"It was for personal gain," said Rogers, according to the Chicago Tribune. "Greed."
Rogers admitted that through his Sports Card Plus and Rogers Photo Archive he defrauded investors, customers and banks through a variety of schemes that included false pretenses, misrepresentations and lies.
The plea agreement noted that the false statements included assets held by the companies, the total value of those assets, the expected return on investments, the use of proceeds raised from investors and the use of proceeds provided by lenders.
A sampling of his felonious escapades, many of which were written about by Arkansas Business since federal agents raided Rogers' home and business three years ago, was outlined in the government's Sept. 9 criminal filing against Rogers.
Rogers' fraud — committed against First Arkansas Bank & Trust of Jacksonville and Bank of Little Rock — were mentioned in the filing without naming the lenders. The banks were identified as Financial Institution 1 and 2 in the filing.
The oldest alleged fraud recounted in the filing dates back November 2009 when Rogers sold a counterfeit Heisman Trophy. The incident involved his altering a ceremonial Heisman Trophy to resemble a 1978 trophy awarded to Billy Sims.
According to the filing, Rogers changed the nameplate on the ceremonial Heisman to indicate that it was the trophy awarded to Sims, and created a document, purportedly signed by Sims, attesting to its authenticity. He then pledged the trophy as collateral to an investor for a $100,000 loan, according to the U.S. Attorney.
The trophy is connected to a $12.3 million lawsuit, filed in January 2015, by Rogers' former business partner, William "Mac" Hogan. Hogan alleged that Rogers committed multiple acts of fraud as part of a Ponzi-style scheme that often involved phantom transactions. In the lawsuit, Hogan said he invested $150,000 for a 50 percent stake in the "Sims" Heisman trophy.
The U.S. Attorney outlined other alleged schemes, including Rogers selling sports memorabilia he knew to be bogus, and telling investors that he had contracts to purchase collections of sports memorabilia and photo archives "when he knew these statements were false because the deals did not exist and because he often created forged contracts that were shown to investors."
Under Monday's plea deal, Rogers is facing nearly eight years in prison if he continues to cooperate with federal investigators. He also awaits court-ordered restitution yet to be determined.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or gross loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greater.
The judge isn't bound by the plea agreement and could impose up to the maximum. If the court doesn't accept the sentencing recommendation, Rogers can't withdraw his guilty plea.
Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 12. The deadline for filing objections to his pre-sentence report is Aug. 14. Responses to any objections are due Aug. 21.
The case has bounced along the federal docket; a Sept. 20 arraignment was rescheduled and held on Oct. 7. Rogers was released on an unsecured $100,000 bond after waiving indictment and pleading not guilty. The March 6 change of plea hearing originally was scheduled for Feb. 3.
Rogers was given permission to travel within Arkansas with the permission of pretrial services.