InvestigatorsMatter for Mallory


Collectors call out account impersonating Orioles legend to sell memorabilia

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Aug 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-08 16:43:38-04

BALTIMORE — The Orioles are flying high. The American League East leaders just hit 70 wins while celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1983 World Series victory. And scammers are taking advantage of the hype. Someone is using the identity of a renowned player to dupe sports memorabilia collectors.

Ricky Sigai is one of those collectors.

“It's a way to connect with my son. We like Baltimore sports, and it's fun to collect with him and one day, when I pass on, you know, he'll get it all,” said Sigai.

He recently came across a trophy he wanted to add to his collection, a game-used Cal Ripken bat being advertised online under the name of a former teammate and World Series champion, Gary Roenicke.

“He said, ‘I don't deal with anybody who resells it. I don't want to see this stuff on eBay.’ So, I was like, awesome that's not going to be me,” said Sigai.

He then sent over $500 but had second thoughts.

“My friend is friends with people that actually know Gary, so they contacted him. And [my friend] called me immediately and he said, don't, don't, don't, but it was too late,” Sigai said.

Bill Haelig, a longtime collector, also connected with this account.

“So the Colts equipment manager actually retrofitted a face mask on his batting helmet. That kind of looked really cool and he was the only person in the major leagues using it at the time,” said Haelig. “I had asked him if that was available and he said, of course it was, and we negotiated a price for that but I did ask to see a picture of it. And that was really maybe the first thing I thought something was amiss, because he had pictures of just about everything else but he couldn't generate a picture of this face mask.”

Both Sigai and Haelig felt pressured to send the money quickly, however, the payment accounts provided were under different names.

Before Haelig sent a thousand dollars, he phoned a friend.

“The Oriole employee did get back to me and said he spoke with Gary and said, no, that this guy is a fraud and this has been going on for a while,” said Haelig.

Sigai stopped his transaction via PayPal, but other members in their collectors group weren’t as lucky.

“He got one guy for $2,600. Another guy for over $1,000. Everybody knows now. Like I said, we did contact the real Gary, he shut his Twitter down,” Sigai told WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii. “The word is out. Don't deal with him, but as you know, scammers will try anything, I guess.”

“You subconsciously let your guard down because we so badly want it to be real that we're willing to do anything to get those items,” said Haelig.

Sigai said this was a lesson for him and his 13-year-old son to watch for the curve balls and call the fouls.

“Scummy, you know, go work hard for your money, do it honestly. I can't stand someone that steals from somebody, rips somebody off and to do it as a former World Series, one of our own beloved hometown heroes is even worse,” said Sigai.

There are ways to authenticate sports memorabilia. Review the certificate of authenticity and make sure the details are correct. Check the refund policy. Ask an expert or check with a trusted dealer. There are companies that can also authenticate sports memorabilia.

And keep in mind, the first sign something may be a forgery is if the price is much lower than what it typically would be.

On Monday, the person operating Roenicke's Facebook account sent photos of items belonging to Haelig to Sofastaii and said they were available for purchase.

Sofastaii spoke with the real Gary Roenicke Tuesday afternoon by phone. He confirmed that he lost access to his Facebook account over a year ago. He said he's not selling memorabilia and anyone using his name to do so is fraudulent.

A Meta spokeswoman informed Sofastaii that the account was placed in a hacked lock checkpoint on Tuesday and they're working to permanently deactivate it.

For more information on how to spot fake sports memorabilia, click here.