Fake Trading Cards, Fraud, and Flat-Out Denial

blank cards; trading cards; cards

This Week’s Wacky Wednesday: Fake Trading Cards, Fraud, and Flat-Out Denial

A Colorado resident was recently charged with trading and selling fake basketball cards to sports memorabilia collectors in a scam that earned him over $800,000. The cards in question? None other than Michael Jordan, one of the most famous basketball stars of the 20th century.

According to prosecutors, Mayo Gilbert McNeil, age 82, was arrested in Denver following a complaint in a Brooklyn federal court that charged him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The details of the charges are much more severe than just one “wire fraud” incident, and are impressive for anyone, especially someone of his age.

The Charges

The accusations state that McNeil started making fraudulent trading card deals using fake Michael Jordan basketball cards. Selling one to a victim for $4,500 in 2019 and trading two fakes for two genuine Tom Brady cards in 2017, it’s charged that the cards are counterfeit and that he has intentionally defrauded people of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI New York field office worked in tandem on this case, coordinating with the Denver police to arrest Mr. McNeil at his home without incident. After he was released without bail, McNeil stated that he “did nothing wrong” but would not comment further.

Trading Cards in 2023?

Some people reading this might be surprised to learn that trading cards are still around, let alone still worth so much money. While the height of the trading card craze died with the 90s, many avid collectors are still working to get the rarest cards and complete their collections that have been years in the making.

People can now trade and sell these cards online and connect with people from all over the country and the world, opening up the opportunity for more fraud and the ease of committing it, in many cases. Fortunately, in this case, the fakes were identified and the man was properly charged. And it’s likely that he was also blacklisted in all the major trading card circles.

Despite all the technology that comes along, people still love their sports. And while new trading cards have their value, too, the old ones are probably worth the most. After all, the man was faking Michael Jordan cards, not just some random player on the team. He knew how to get people’s attention, and more importantly, how to get top dollar for a fake, at least for a minute.

Buyer Beware

This is why the FBI and other authorities urge people to be diligent and careful when connecting with others to buy, sell, or trade items. You can’t always guarantee what you are getting and there’s a lot of risk that comes in taking people at their word. It’s not likely that you’re going to run into a situation as severe as this one every day, but it’s still important to be cautious.

If you are buying or trading cards with someone you don’t know or haven’t done business with before, you should know how to validate the cards and verify their authenticity so that you don’t get taken advantage of. The same is true for any sports memorabilia, because a lot of it is easier to fake than you think.

The case has yet to be heard in court and it remains to be seen what his punishment will be, but it’s estimated that McNeil will be responsible for restitution and fines, at the very least, which could easily total more than $1 million based on the amount of fraud he’s charged with.