Three years ago, John Rogers mused on the likelihood of going to prison, 10 months after federal agents raided his North Little Rock business and mansion.
“I’ll probably get charged with something,” Rogers conceded in a long, sometimes rambling conversation with Arkansas Business on Nov. 25, 2014.
The 6-6, 320-plus-pound sports memorabilia and photo dealer considered a stint behind bars as a not altogether unpleasant diversion. With a show of bravado, Rogers viewed his future prison time as an opportunity to get in better shape by dropping 50 pounds or so and a chance to earn a master’s degree.
Continued bad behavior by the serial fraudster is expected to enhance his pending prison experience with even more time for personal enrichment.
Instead of plea-reduced sentencing, the 44-year-old faces a bond revocation hearing in U.S. District Court in Chicago today (Nov. 20) for financially enriching himself through more illegal shenanigans.
Evidence of ongoing criminal conduct by Rogers prompted Joel Levin, acting U.S. attorney in Chicago, to ask that he be sentenced to 141 months in prison, more than twice the time anticipated from a plea deal struck last year.
“His continued fraudulent activities and denials of knowledge of the fraud demonstrates that he has not lived up to his end of the agreement,” according to the sentencing memorandum submitted by Levin on Nov. 7.
Levin also asked for restitution of $22.7 million.
The outcome of today’s hearing could land Rogers in MCC Chicago, the 28-story federal metropolitan correctional center. If so, he likely would be given a 30-day stay in the downtown Chicago high-rise until his rescheduled sentencing hearing on Dec. 20.
Blake Hendrix, the criminal defense attorney for Rogers, is doing damage control in hopes of salvaging a semblance of the negotiated plea agreement. The day before the government filed its request for a stiffer sentence, the Little Rock lawyer had asked for a 60-month sentence for his client.
While Hendrix was granted time to counter the government’s position on prison time before an order is handed down, today’s federal court proceedings in Chicago will include testimony related to sentencing.
Among those expected to make appearances are Mac Hogan, a former benefactor who holds a punitive treble damage award of $30.7 million against Rogers; and Larry Wilson, CEO of Jacksonville’s First Arkansas Bank & Trust, which holds a $15.5 million judgment against Rogers. Some of the testimony should entail elaboration on past misdeeds as well as details on more recent unlawful activity by Rogers.
Michael McAfee discovered dozens of fake contracts during his 31 months as the court-appointed receiver for Rogers’ business assets.
“There may be more out there, but I came up with 51,” McAfee said.
A sampling of recent criminal acts recounted by Levin in a sentencing memorandum includes Rogers selling phony Mickey Mantle baseball cards and fake Scottie Pippen trophies and marketing a bogus Super Bowl I game ball.
Federal agents visited Little Rock on Nov. 12 to collect some of the newest counterfeit items that Rogers was hawking through auction houses and over the internet.
Rumblings that Rogers was still running amok persisted even after federal agents raided the offices of his Sports Cards Plus and Rogers Photo Archives on Jan. 28, 2014.
Rogers admitted to investigators that he sold fake sports memorabilia for many years, and prosecutors are pressing their belief that Rogers still is.
In court filings, the government notes that in the months since his guilty plea to fraud, thousands of dollars
flowed between third-party bank accounts that benefited Rogers and protected him from creditors trying to collect on judgments tallied in the millions of dollars.
“It’s never stopped,” said McAfee, who received a stream of complaints during the receivership that Rogers was wheeling and dealing assets that belonged to creditors as well as counterfeit items. “All of his business activities were nothing more than a soundstage for fraud.”
From House to House
The gregarious guy who raised money for charities while living large underwent a massive lifestyle change after federal investigators ended his felonious charade. During much of the past three years, Rogers has adopted something of a gypsy existence.
He first bounced around familiar haunts in North Little Rock before pinballing around the Hillcrest area of Little Rock, housed by sympathetic friends, crashing with buddies and shacking up with girlfriends.
During the wee hours of Oct. 1, Rogers, who had worn out his welcome at the apartment of Amber Davis, attracted a visit from the Little Rock police.
Richard Wiebe went to check on his friend after he got a hang-up phone call from her cell number and Rogers answered his return call.
Rogers said that everything was fine and that he misdialed trying to call his son, according to Wiebe.
“At 1:30 in the morning? On Amber’s phone?” Wiebe said in a recent interview. “I asked him if Amber was there, and he said, no. Then, he called back and changed his story.”
Wiebe called police after arriving and having a verbal confrontation with Rogers, who went on a rant while the police tried to talk to Wiebe.
“They had to lock him in the back of the police car and roll up the windows because he wouldn’t shut up,” Wiebe said. “He kept on yammering on and on.
“After they released him at 6 a.m., he showed up at my house at 11 in a taxi, threatening to sue me for misdemeanor assault.”
That assault claim is linked with Wiebe pushing back the physically imposing Rogers when the former offensive lineman at Louisiana Tech invaded his personal space.
“I was able to restrain him with one arm,” said the 6-foot, 215-pound Wiebe. “But he was physically abusive to Amber.”
On Oct. 13, Rogers was called to the Little Rock federal courthouse and received an admonishment for violations of his bond conditions via teleconference from U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin in Chicago.
What sounds like a stern warning to a disobedient child is expected to have more serious ramifications for Rogers during the next four weeks.