CHICAGO — Testimony at the Nov. 20 bond revocation hearing of serial fraudster John Rogers shed more light on new evidence uncovered by federal investigators.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office introduced details of what it believes was ongoing criminal activity by Rogers that produced a menu of counterfeit collectibles before and after his March plea bargain agreement.
The items include fake Razorback sports memorabilia, phony Mickey Mantle trophies, bogus travel trunks of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, suspect movie prop guns attributed to John Wayne and lithograph images of Muhammad Ali bearing his forged signature.
“It’s stunning how widespread it is,” U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin said before remanding Rogers into the custody of U.S. marshals until his rescheduled Dec. 20 sentencing hearing.
Rogers could receive even more than the 141 months of imprisonment with the $22.7 million restitution sought by the government if the judge finds Rogers worthy of additional punishment for recent bad acts. Based on the sentencing guidelines submitted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Rogers could face a range of 188 to 235 months imprisonment.
“He is incorrigible and has no conscience or fear of retribution,” said Larry Wilson, chairman, president and CEO of First Arkansas Bank & Trust, which has a $15.5 million judgment against Rogers. “If there’s a case for a maximum sentence, this is it.”
Wilson spoke at the Nov. 20 hearing in Chicago that was originally scheduled to be a sentencing but morphed into a bond revocation hearing to consider the new criminal findings.
Durkin allowed the Jacksonville banker and William “Mac” Hogan to make statements to be included in the court record for sentencing.
Hogan, a former Rogers investor who holds a punitive treble damage award of $30.7 million against him, also asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence allowed.
“I don’t see any possibility of rehabilitation,” said Hogan, who was bilked by Rogers in a series of fraudulent deals involving sports memorabilia and photo archives.
FBI Special Agent Brian Brusokas took the witness stand for nearly two and a half hours on Nov. 20 and guided the court through a long line of evidence linked with new scams by Rogers.
Brusokas testified that Rogers used false names to buy merchandise he twisted to his fraudulent purposes and deployed phony invoices, forged signatures and counterfeit certificates of authenticity to support his schemes.
The FBI agent said that much of the material was gathered from the apartment of Amber Davis, where Little Rock police were drawn to an Oct. 1 altercation.
Brusokas described Davis, 42, as a sports novice who helped Rogers produce a variety of counterfeit memorabilia and who served as the nominal holder of bank accounts Rogers used to accomplish fraudulent transactions.
A sampling of fake items she worked on includes a football memorializing the 1947 Notre Dame National Championship, a basketball commemorating the first Boston Celtic victory in franchise history on Nov. 16, 1946, and a travel trunk owned by Babe Ruth.
“She was doing it under the direction of John Rogers,” Brusokas testified.
Davis told FBI agents that Rogers would prowl thrift stores for castaway items that he would alter and transform into a valuable-seeming collectible for sale. He also would buy old typewriters to create false documentation authenticating the counterfeits as genuine.
An old football cleat was attributed to Arkansas All-American Lance Alworth, and old women’s clothing became apparel once worn by Marilyn Monroe.
Davis gave the FBI permission to search her apartment, which proved to be a trove of fraud evidence against Rogers, including documents used to create false provenance.
Among the items gathered was a piece of paper attributed to Rogers doodling the signatures of The Beatles, written in the style of John, Paul, George and Ringo.
It also bore another handcrafted inscription by Rogers: “To my friend Brian, the finest FBI agent” penned in the style of Babe Ruth’s handwriting. When Brusokas read that aloud in court, Rogers chuckled in amusement.
Documents obtained by the FBI show that when Rogers ordered trophy plates from Southern Trophy in Sherwood, he used several aliases, including John Wilkins, David Wilcox and Glen Wilcox.
Ordering custom-engraved trophy plates under a fake name isn’t a crime. But the FBI connected the dots: Ones ordered by Rogers ended up on phony sports memorabilia that was sold as authentic.
Among the bogus trophies introduced as evidence by the government were a commemorative football trophy for the Arkansas Razorbacks 11-0 season in 1964 given to Wilson Matthews, assistant coach that season and later associate athletic director at the University of Arkansas; and a commemorative 1945 NCAA Final Four trophy given to Eugene Lambert, Arkansas Razorbacks basketball coach.
The items were among a string of counterfeits the FBI believes Rogers sold through John McLean of Little Rock. Brusokas believes Rogers likely posed as McLean in emails and other correspondence to make the fraudulent transactions happen.
McLean entered the courtroom narrative of Rogers last year when he took the stand on behalf of Rogers in a civil lawsuit.
McLean testified that he was mistakenly served a summons that was supposed to be delivered to Rogers. That backed up a courtroom account by Rogers, who is much taller and larger than McLean.
Given the disparate resemblance of the two, the judge didn’t believe the process server gave the legal papers to the wrong John. McLean remains a person of interest to the FBI.
After ordering Rogers to be imprisoned until sentencing, Judge Durkin gave Ron Rogers permission to give his son a goodbye hug. After that began prison protocol.
Before escorting John Rogers from the courtroom to prison, marshals had him remove his tie, which he handed to his father, and his belt, which he rolled up and placed on the courtroom table.
His 30 days behind bars in Illinois will be marked as time served against his final sentence when the 44-year-old felon returns to federal court next month.
For now, Rogers is being held at MCC Chicago, a 28-story federal metropolitan correctional center in downtown Chicago.