MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Collecting sports memorabilia is big business these days -- but how do you know if you're getting the real deal? Before you buy a fake, FOX6's Contact 6 says it's important to know what can happen.
Baseball is America's popular past-time, and like most sports, baseball has generated a memorabilia business worth billions.
"I consider myself very knowledgeable about what a real one and a fake one is," Mark Mench said.
Mench has been an autograph collector for 30 years, and is very confident he can spot a fake. However, his batting average took a hit recently.
"A Steve Prefontaine autograph you almost never see. So, he advertised for things that almost everyone would be interested in who collects what I collect," Mench said.
The "he" Mench is referring to is Carl Myer.
"The way he fooled me is because - how he spoke. He knew dealers, he knew the business, he knew basically everything I knew about autographs and I`ve collected 30 years," Mench said.
Based on these conversations, Mench bought several items -- cards for Roberto Clemente, Steve Prefontaine and Mel Ott.
"When the autographs came, I did recognize them as fake immediately and I tried to return them. I attempted to contact him. He actually threatened my life if I came near him and basically I was left holding the bag," Mench said.
"Several sports collectors filed a mail fraud complaint with USPIS claiming they bought forged autographs," U.S. Postal Inspector Ryan Amstone said.
Mench was one of 56 victims who paid Myer more than $74,000 for items.
"A lot of the victims submitted those autographs to professional sports authenticators who confirmed they were in fact forgeries," Amstone said.
Postal inspectors say when Mench filed a complaint, they already had a file started on Myer.
"Using the mail was his undoing," Mench said.
Myer was prosecuted in federal court on mail fraud charges and is serving a two-year prison sentence now.
"I`m glad he paid a price because I`m sure he fooled more people besides me. I feel like I`m a person who would be hard to fool. It`s the first time in 30 years I`ve been fooled," Mench said.
Myer was also ordered to pay more than $65,000 back.
Contact 6 says the best way to make sure you're not getting a fake is to seek out an athlete yourself, and ask for the autograph.