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Scammers sold fake sports, Pokémon cards in $2M scheme: feds

The feds try to catch ‘em all.

Two Washington state men were arrested Thursday for a scheme in which they duped collectors into shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars for sports and Pokémon trading cards that turned out to be phonies.

Anthony Curcio, 43, and Iosif Bondarchuk, 37, allegedly made the regular cards seem like valuable rarities by fudging their grades, pocketing $2 million over the course of the two-year con, Manhattan federal prosecutors said.

Anthony Curcio, 43, and Iosif Bondarchuk, 37, alleged phony graded trading cards — like Pokémon — to defraud collectors, federal prosecutors said.
Anthony Curcio, 43, and Iosif Bondarchuk, 37, alleged phony graded trading cards — like Pokémon — to defraud collectors, federal prosecutors said. Department of justice

PSA, a reputable card authentication company, charges a fee to card collectors to have their card graded on a scale from 1-to-10, and if cards receive higher grades, they are typically deemed more valuable and rare.

But the pair found a loophole by disguising regular cards that had not been authenticated as graded ones, fooling collectors into purchasing them at false and inflated prices, according to the indictment.

One of the most notable alleged scams was the sale of a 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card, which had a purported PSA grade of “10,” or “gem-mint,” that sold at a Manhattan marketplace for $171,700 — but the grading card company had not graded the particular card, the feds said.

Jordan’s gem-mint rookie usually sells between $185,000 and $203,000, although one with a grade of “8” has a price of simply between $6,000 and $7,000, based on court docket papers.

The duo positioned the cardboard in a plastic case with a fake label that made it seem to be it had been graded a “10,” full with a bogus bar code and certification quantity, prosecutors alleged.

Other cards — just like the 1999 Pokémon Venusaur first-edition holographic cards — have been additionally falsely labeled and sold for $10,500 by Bondarchuk to an undercover regulation enforcement purchaser in Manhattan July 2023, the court docket papers declare.

Curcio and Bondarchuk allegedly sold fake cards at card retailers, auctions, card reveals and on-line — and even once they have been caught by consumers, they’d ship them their a reimbursement solely to resell the identical phony cards to different victims, the feds stated.

One of the most notable alleged scams was the sale of a 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card
One of probably the most notable alleged scams was the sale of a 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card. Department of Justice

The pair sold fake cards from a number of high-profiled athletes like Tom Brady, Nolan Ryan, Larry Bird, Julius Erving, and Magic Johnson, in addition to a number of expensive Pokémon cards, in the scheme that ran from 2022 by May 2024, prosecutors charged.

“As alleged, Anthony Curcio and Iosif Bondarchuk carried out a brazen, nationwide fraud scheme involving valuable sports and Pokémon trading cards to deceive buyers and marketplaces, ultimately amassing over $2 million in fraudulent and attempted sales,” Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams stated in a press release.

“Thanks to our law enforcement partners, the dedicated prosecutors of this Office, and the many victims who came forward, this alleged fraud has had its last dance. Our message today is clear: no matter what product you’re selling, if you try to deceive the public to make money, you will be brought to justice.”

Curcio and Bondarchuk have been every charged with one depend of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one depend of wire fraud and have been anticipated to face a choose in Washington someday Thursday.

If convicted, they every face a most sentence of 20 years in jail.

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