Men charged in fake sports memorabilia scheme involving bogus baseballs, bats, and paintings


Federal authorities have charged two Michigan brothers and a Florida gentleman in connection with an artwork and athletics memorabilia scheme spanning 15 many years that included cast paintings and bogus autographs from some of baseball’s most legendary figures, according to the Justice Division.

In a 34-website page indictment unsealed Thursday, federal prosecutors charged Donald Henkel, 61, Mark Henkel, 66, and Raymond Paparella, of Boca Raton, Florida, with wire fraud in relationship with the plan, which allegedly ran from 2005 to 2020.

Mark Henkel faces an added demand of witness tampering for allegedly persuading a co-schemer to make a untrue statement to regulation enforcement. All 3 adult men pleaded not responsible Thursday in a Chicago federal court. 

Donald Henkel is accused of generating and selling merchandise that had been altered with phony autographs to baseballs and product bats that highlighted the names of baseball greats Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Cy Young in an exertion to enhance their benefit. 


Sports fraud scheme.

Babe Ruth’s 500th residence run bat is proven prior to it goes up for auction by SCP Auctions in Laguna Niguel, California in 2019. Three guys were billed this 7 days with developing faux sports memorabilia, such as autographs they claimed arrived from the legend (Reuters)

He also allegedly used bogus autographs or signatures to paintings and other memorabilia to Hollywood and tunes collectibles.

Donald Henkel also labored with his brother to present untrue histories for the things to prospective customers, prosecutors stated. 

Paparella and many others were being allegedly recruited acted as “straw sellers” to conceal the brothers’ involvement and to pass off the products as legitimate.

Numerous of the solid items bought for additional than $100,000, authorities reported.

Lawyer Damon Cheronis, who represents Paparella, informed the Chicago Tribune in a statement that his customer “appears to be forward to the real truth bordering these allegations being introduced in a courtroom of regulation.”

Amongst the victims of the fraud had been artwork galleries and auction properties in California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan and London, the indictment claimed. 

A 2020 Detroit News posting described an FBI raid on Donald Henkel’s home in Traverse Metropolis for the duration of an investigation into the promoting of solid paintings. 

Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium

Babe Ruth and his wife Claire pose for a image in Yankee Stadium before a video game in 1930. (Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Photos / Getty Visuals)

The supervisor of Hirschl & Adler in New York Metropolis, a single of the country’s prime American art galleries, was quoted as saying the gallery spent $500,000 on paintings joined to the plan. 


“These ended up incredibly stunning – fake or not,” she instructed the newspaper. “Whoever did this is very an completed artist — just not the artist he or she purported to be.”


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