A new lawsuit alleges members of the New York Giants organization, including superstar quarterback Eli Manning, created a scheme to pass off fake memorabilia as game-used items. It states one of the frauds even made its way to the Hall of Fame.
Kaja Whitehouse of the New York Post reports on the claims made by prominent sports collector Eric Inselberg. An apparent e-mail exchange between Inselberg and Giants equipment manager Joe Skiba is used to back up the alleged misconduct:
"Hey Joe, my buddy was offered an eli game used helmet and jersey. Are these the bs ones eli asked you to make up because he didnt want to give up the real stuff?" Inselberg writes in the exchange.
Skiba—replying from account "email@example.com"—writes, "BS ones, you are correct…"
The suit names nine different defendants, highlighted by the Giants organization and Manning, but also includes the team's dry cleaner. It alleges Barry Barone was part of the scheme, using his shop to damage and then repair jerseys to make them appear used.
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Inselberg was previously in the news involving fake memorabilia in 2011. He was indicted for selling fake game-used jerseys, but the New York Post notes the case was dropped after his lawyers argued members of the Giants lied to cover up their own scam.
The new lawsuit expands on those initial claims to show what he believes is a patten of fraudulent actions by the Giants organization.
In Manning's case, the suit alleges the quarterback wanted to keep certain items such his Super Bowl helmets and select jerseys for himself. His helmet from the team's memorable 2008 triumph over the undefeated New England Patriots that made it to the Hall of Fame is allegedly fake.
The suit claims the long-running scheme by the Giants would have been discovered during an FBI investigation if the individuals involved didn't band together against Inselberg. Per the report, the lawsuit states, "When the Government came knocking on the Giants' door, the response was a coverup that threw Inselberg under the bus to protect themselves and the team."
Paul Schwartz of the New York Post provided a statement from the Giants, who denied the claims had any basis of accuracy:
Giants statement on fake memorabilia lawsuit: "The suit is without merit whatsoever and we will defend it vigorously." #nyg— Paul Schwartz (@NYPost_Schwartz) January 30, 2014
Eli Manning also provided a statement on the lawsuit (via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News):
Eli Manning issued a statement on the memorabilia lawsuit he's facing: "The Giants told me this suit is completely without merit ...— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) January 30, 2014
(Eli Manning continued) "... and I have no reason to believe otherwise. The Giants are going to fight it and so will I." #NYG— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) January 30, 2014
Sports memorabilia is already brought under intense scrutiny because there's an immense effort to create realistic fakes to sell for major profit. Of course, that's usually believed to happen on the secondary market and not orchestrated by the teams or players themselves.
Whether the lawsuit will have any legs once it gets deep into the court system is unclear, but the Giants are seemingly ready to defend against the claims all the way through the process.