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Former pastor gets prison for sports memorabilia fraud

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Photo: Christian Ohde/McPhoto/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Photo: Christian Ohde/McPhoto/ullstein bild via Getty Images

A former pastor in Arkansas who helped a sports memorabilia dealer make millions of dollars by fraudulently selling ordinary items characterized as valuable was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in prison and ordered to pay $203,966 in restitution.

John Alexander McLean, a 59-year-old former Presbyterian minister in Little Rock, worked with memorabilia dealer John Rogers in the fraudulent scheme in which McLean told prospective buyers that his father obtained some of the items from his connection with famous football coaches, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Rogers is serving a 12-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2017 in Chicago to scheming to defraud banks and investors out of $25 million, partly by using a doctored Heisman Trophy as collateral for a $100,000 loan. Another scheme involved a fake Super Bowl I game ball, according to the Associated Press. Rogers formerly owned Sports Card Plus and Rogers Photo Archive in North Little Rock.

“I clearly lost my bearings in my dealings with John Rogers,” McLean said in court Wednesday, addressing U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. “I’m incredibly ashamed of myself. There are no excuses for what I did.”

The judge named nine of the 10 people who are owed amounts ranging from $5,300 to $48,216. The 10th person was taken for $3,700.

From the Democrat-Gazette:

McLean, represented by attorney Darrell Brown Jr., pleaded guilty in October to a single count of wire fraud related to an Aug. 3, 2016, wire transfer of $9,000 from a Paragon Auctions bank account to his own account at the Arkansas Federal Credit Union. However, his sentencing took into account all relevant conduct related to a fraud scheme that he admitted he helped Rogers carry out from June 2016 through November 2017.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron McCree told the court that not only did the victims buy fake items, but some of them later sold the items to others for higher prices, “so there is still harm being done.”

"Mr. McLean was out actually dealing with the victims here and selling the story," McCree said. He added that he thought a prison sentence is "appropriate" for McLean.

McLean is to report to federal prison on April 8. 

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