Company selling game-used NFL jerseys has been busted for fraud

Searching for that unique gift for the sports fan in your life?

How about some game-used memorabilia from the NFL?

JO Sports is selling plenty of it these days and has a holiday sale going on. You can get the helmet Shawne Merriman wore through the Oct. 9 game for $4,000. An alternate orange Chicago Bears jersey worn for two games by Matt Forte is $4,250.

They come with certificates of authenticity, and a Bears spokesman said you can be assured any items from their team sold by the company are legitimate. But Jarrod Oldridge, the man behind JO Sports, reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors for doctoring bogus jerseys in the past.

Jared Hopkins of the Chicago Tribune details the story and the problems with ensuring game-used sports memorabilia is what it’s cracked up to be.

According to court documents, Oldridge, a Las Vegas resident admitted that from 2004 to 2008, he and others doctored jerseys and then sold them to other companies as real, game-worn material. Five others were charged. Oldridge will be sentenced in May and he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Per Hopkins, “records show (Oldridge) and others swapped the numbers and names on jerseys with more popular players. Records allege he made jerseys appear as if they were worn by players in games by "roughening, scuffing, washing, dirtying" and changing the appearance. Jerseys were accompanied by false certificates of authenticity, according to the records.”

The Bears say they got into business with JO Sports after the criminal activity ceased. JO Sports claims it partners with 14 NFL teams to re-sell their equipment on its Web site. Hopkins reports the New York Giants have terminated their relationship with JO Sports recently and the Baltimore Ravens are in the process of severing their ties.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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