Friday, April 30, 2010

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Charges Georgia Man for Selling Fake Vintage Horror Movie Posters and Lobby Cards Over the Internet

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and GEORGE VENIZELOS, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), announced that KERRY HAGGARD was arrested this morning in Georgia on mail fraud charges relating to his sale of fake vintage horror movie posters and lobby cards which he misrepresented over the Internet and elsewhere to be authentic vintage collectibles. In doing so, HAGGARD defrauded his victims of over a million dollars in money and property.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

Horror movie posters and lobby cards were displayed in the lobby of movie theaters as a type of advertising product that the movie industry introduced in the 1920s. Lobby cards are popular collectible items which are often sold through auction houses and over the Internet through online auction sites such as eBay.

From January 2006 to August 2009, HAGGARD engaged in a scheme to defraud collectors by selling purportedly vintage horror movie posters and lobby cards which he represented were original pieces, knowing that the items were reproductions that HAGGARD himself had created. HAGGARD used a New York-based printing company to make high-quality ink jet copies of horror movie cards or posters from either hard copies or digital scans of such pieces provided by HAGGARD. HAGGARD also used a restoration company to attach the inkjet copies to lobby card stock and to airbrush and otherwise alter the resulting product to make it look as real as possible.

HAGGARD then fraudulently marketed the reproductions as originals through eBay using a member username and various e-mail addresses. HAGGARD was able to sell numerous fake lobby cards and posters for movies such as "Frankenstein," "Son of Frankenstein," "Mummy's Hand," and "Murder in the Rue Morgue," at prices ranging from $500 to $5,000, to approximately 25 victims. In other instances, HAGGARD traded his fake reproductions to other sellers who gave HAGGARD real lobby cards and/or posters in return.

The victims learned of the fraud in various ways, including after providing the lobby card to a restoration expert, or after consigning the piece to a large auction house for sale. As a result of HAGGARD's fraud, his victims lost more than $1 million in money and property.

HAGGARD is charged with one count of mail fraud. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross pecuniary loss or gain derived from the offense on each count.

HAGGARD, 45, of Commerce, Georgia, was presented today in federal court in Gainesville, Georgia.

U.S. Attorney PREET BHARARA stated: "Kerry Haggard's purported fraud was a real-life horror show for his victims, who are allegedly out of pocket more than one million dollars. It is especially difficult to police fraud over the Internet, but increasingly important that we do so aggressively. Together with our partners at the FBI, this office will continue to go after those who disguise their scams through online auctions and websites."

FBI Special Agent-in-Charge GEORGE VENIZELOS stated: "Authentic vintage movie posters are valuable pieces of memorabilia sometimes worth thousands of dollars. But Haggard wasn't a legitimate purveyor of fine collectibles. He created and peddled fakes. Whether the merchandise is artwork, baseball memorabilia, or movie posters, if you try to peddle fakes, you'll draw the attention of not just potential purchasers, but the FBI."

Mr. BHARARA praised the work of the FBI's New York and Atlanta field offices and said the investigation in continuing.

This case is being prosecuted by the Office's Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant United States Attorney RYAN P. POSCABLO is in charge of this prosecution.

The charge contained in the criminal complaint is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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