A prominent Toronto-area hockey memorabilia dealer, who sells items worn and autographed by NHL players, is accused in a lawsuit of selling fake jerseys.
Derrick Luck, who runs Mississauga's Lucky Sports Management Inc., sold Felix Gatt, a 69-year-old retiree from Troy, Mich., jerseys that purportedly had been worn by Steve Yzerman and Wayne Gretzky during NHL games, according to the lawsuit filed late last week in Ontario Superior Court.
Gatt paid $8,500 (all figures U.S.) in January 2006 for two jerseys that supposedly had been worn by Yzerman, the long-time Detroit Red Wings captain. Gatt says in the court documents he paid $30,000 for an Edmonton Oilers jersey he believed Gretzky had once worn during a game.
The statement of claim alleges the Oilers jersey was actually worn during a game by an undisclosed Gretzky teammate. "The Gretzky name and numbers were subsequently added," Gatt alleged in court filings. The suit also alleges that two Yzerman jerseys purchased by Gatt were actually store bought and only signed by the player later.
"We've got people dying in Iraq and he's suing me over these jerseys," Luck said in an interview yesterday. Gatt's claims have not been proven in court and Luck has yet to file a statement of defence, but the dealer claimed in the interview that he received the jerseys from Yzerman himself and from an associate close to Gretzky. He wouldn't say who that was.
Luck's lawyer was served with Gatt's civil complaint this week, but rumours about the dispute have roiled the multimillion-dollar memorabilia business for weeks.
Luck, who has contracts with NHL players Dany Heatley, Paul Coffey and Doug Gilmour and is licensed by the league to sell memorabilia, has been in the industry since 1989, according to nhl.com.
The NHL declined comment.
The allegations serve as a reminder of how much money some collectors will part with for a hockey sweater worn by one of the NHL's elite. In 2006, for instance, website Lelands.com sold a jersey Bobby Orr wore during the 1967-68 season for $179,654.79. Four Orr jerseys sold during that auction for a total of $413,980.42.
Gatt, a close friend of Red Wings great Gordie Howe, alleges Luck knew or ought to have known that the Gretzky jersey was not an authentic, team-issued, game-worn item. Since buying the jersey, Gatt alleges he has learned Luck tried and failed to have the jersey authenticated "in light of the fact that the numbers on the jersey evidenced different wear than the front cresting of the jersey."
Luck said yesterday that three or four years ago he sent the jerseys involved in the dispute to Milton Byron, a retired police detective in Somers Point, N.J., who has worked as a jersey authenticator for about 30 years. "I didn't see any problems with the jerseys," Byron said in an interview yesterday. "To me they looked right on the money."
Luck is also accused in the lawsuit of refusing to repay a $50,000 loan he received from Gatt in early 2006.
Several memorabilia dealers say the case underscores the need for the NHL to improve its vetting of companies that sell merchandise through nhl.com. According to one dealer, the NHL charges companies a fee of about $15,000 a year and demands an additional portion of the sales generated from its website.
While selling on the NHL's Internet site gives companies credibility, the league doesn't do enough to ensure they meet a standard, several dealers say. "They may say that we have to be present during any autograph signings, but the league doesn't do anything to actually ensure we do that," one dealer said.
Some stars have taken it into their own hands to battle counterfeit products. Gretzky, Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, for instance, sometimes have the names of their children sewn onto the inside of their jerseys, said Marc Juteau, who runs Classicauctions.net.
The fact that there are soldiers dying in Iraq has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not these jerseys are genuine or not! Also, Larry, you are right on the spot when you remarked about the amount of money paid for those jerseys. If I was going to shell out that kind of money for hockey items it certainly wouldn't be for game worn jerseys. Any time you get into that stuff and autographs you are entering a very risky arena, indeed.
A couple of updates if anyone is following this story
Accused rival company of selling fake Yzerman autographs; York police also named as defendant
Jun 12, 2008 04:30 AM
Sports business columnist
A prominent hockey memorabilia dealer faces a bizarre $3 million lawsuit several years after police raided a store in Vaughan and seized photos and hockey cards that featured allegedly forged signatures of NHL star Steve Yzerman.
The lawsuit is the second to surface in the past week involving Derrick Luck, who runs Mississauga's Lucky Sports Management Inc. Luck is one of the top sellers in the hockey memorabilia industry and has had contracts with players including Yzerman, former Leaf Doug Gilmour and Ottawa Senators star Dany Heatley.
The case is certain to increase scrutiny of the multimillion-dollar memorabilia business, one that several leading dealers say is rife with fake signatures and misrepresented hockey jerseys.
After Luck contacted mall security at the Vaughan Mills shopping centre on Sept. 4, 2005, York Region constable Evangelos Nasios seized a number of Yzerman pictures and hockey cards from Celebrities, a memorabilia store in the mall.
The store's owners, Darril Mintz, Kathryn Friedlander and Paolo Marin, were charged with fraud under $5,000, uttering a forged document, and possession of property obtained by crime under $5,000. However, the charges were withdrawn just four months later, on Jan. 31, 2006.
Last September, Mintz, Friedlander and Marin sued York Region police and Luck for defamation. York police chief Armand La Barge is also listed as a defendant in the case.
In their statement of claim, the plaintiffs allege police "failed to investigate the matters before them appropriately. They failed to determine that Derek (sic) Luck had a criminal record of fraud. ... They failed to appreciate and investigate the ulterior motives of Luck."
The court documents say the proceedings "were maliciously prosecuted. Luck by his allegations intended to cause harm to a competitor in the business. Police constable Nasios sought publicity in association with a hockey star." Luck has also used the alias John Donald Palmer, they allege.
York Region police in a statement of defence filed in March say that they obtained information about the store owners from Luck. That information "provided reasonable cause for the arrest of the plaintiffs."
The police allege the $3 million in damages sought is excessive and have filed a cross-claim against Luck. That means if a judge or jury awards damages, police believe Luck should be responsible for paying the damages.
A York Region police spokesperson declined to comment.
Luck has not filed a statement of defence. In an interview, he denied having ever used an alias, but confirmed he does have a criminal record. "Did I bounce a few cheques? Yes," he said. "From 17 to 19 I was a nightmare. I'm not going to make excuses but that was 28 years ago. I'm married now with kids. Do I have to pay for something that happened so long ago?"
Luck also says that an affidavit signed by Yzerman was supplied to police alleging the signatures on the items at Celebrities were fakes.
Luck is also being sued by Felix Gatt, a 69-year-old retiree from Troy, Mich., for selling jerseys that had purportedly been worn during NHL games by Yzerman and Wayne Gretzky. Gatt in court papers alleges the jerseys were never team issued or worn during games.
Jun 14, 2008 04:30 AM
Sports business columnist
A bizarre $3 million lawsuit over allegedly fake hockey memorabilia is turning into a case cast in irony. Two of the three owners of a Vaughan sports memorabilia store who are suing a leading hockey collectibles dealer for defamation were convicted more than a decade ago of selling fake sports collectibles.
Earlier this week, the Star reported Darril Mintz, Kathryn Friedlander and Paolo Marin, who own a store at the Vaughan Mills shopping mall called Celebrities, filed a lawsuit against York Region police and hockey dealer Derrick Luck.
Mintz, Friedlander and Marin allege Luck convinced police in 2005 to seize items from their store that they alleged were autographed by NHL star Steve Yzerman.
Luck told police at the time that the autographs were forgeries. While Mintz, Friedlander and Marin were charged with fraud, the charges were dropped, setting the stage for their lawsuit against police and Luck. Mintz, Friedlander and Marin accused police of failing to do their homework and discovering Luck has a criminal record for fraud. Luck says he was convicted about 28 years ago for passing bad cheques.
However, Friedlander and Marin also have criminal records. They were convicted and sentenced in 1995 for duping fans into buying fake memorabilia and autographs of their sports heroes. A lawyer for Celebrities owners said his clients' past convictions have nothing to do with their current lawsuit.
"They're the ones who have had their possessions taken," said lawyer Larry Pick. "They have their own vulnerabilities, but they are allowed protection under the law and under the charter."
Friedlander, who then was known as Kathryn Mintz, and Paulo Marin, who then used Paul as a first name, were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the public, conspiracy to possess the proceeds of crime, uttering forged documents, defrauding the public and possession of the proceeds of crime. Police estimated they sold at least $300,000 worth of fake sports items.
A repeat offender, Marin received a two-year jail term while Friedlander received six months. Both also received three years of probation.
Police began their investigation in November 1993 after learning former Blue Jay Paul Molitor had not signed items supposedly bearing his signature. Molitor and eight other athletes' signatures including Leafs captain Doug Gilmour and former Blue Jays Joe Carter, John Olerud and Duane Ward – were discovered to be forged.
Here's another one, found this online but the same blurb more or less was in the paper here yesterday (New Brunswick). Pretty sure these guys had a store in Fredericton that went under, they sold off a lot of their stuff to another store here. Anybody have any experiences with them online ?
Earlier this month, a former on-line auction seller was in provincial court in Fredericton, New Brunswick, on fraud charges.
According to the RCMP, Jason Todd Bobbitt, the former owner of Crazy Canucks Ltd, pleaded guilty to five charges of fraud exceeding $5,000 dollars against him and to five charges of fraud exceeding $5,000 against Crazy Canucks Ltd.
The charges were laid by the Fredericton RCMP Commercial Crime Section following a complaint received from the United States that Bobbitt and his company, which specialized in sports memorabilia, defrauded victims on the Internet through e-Bay online auctions.
The RCMP investigation took place between 2003 and 2007, and uncovered a total fraud of over $300,000.
Police said Bobbitt, now a resident of Kelowna, B.C., was sentenced to five months of house arrest, two years probation and has to pay restitution to the victims.
I Had a dealing with Jason Bobbitt in 2003 and started legal proceedings with him over some vintage hockey sets that I payed for and never received. I also had a local law enforcement officer pay him a visit and threatened to pay him a visit myself if he did not make good on his dealing with me. He finally surcome to the pressure and refunded me my monies. It was in the $5000+ range as well.
I provided some evidence to the Fredricton RCMP that they may or may not have used in the case.
He was your classic theif....very curtious and polite on the phone even to the point of trying to make you his buddy. This of course is to remove any suspicion you may have. Made all kind of excuses when deal was not panning out on my end.
I agree with Rob. Bobbitt was very friendly and he was a thief. He once offered me a small run of 50's Parkhurst sets. I made a deal with him at night and was going to send payment in the morning. That morning I woke up and received an email from Mastro that their auction was live so I went to check it out. Sure enough all the sets were in the auction, same sets, same scans. If not for that, I would have been in the same position as Rob. Jim.
i had the same experience around the same time dealing with this clown. i purchased some early 70s packs and they never showed up. he claimed to have sent them to the wrong address. i spoke with visa and they handled it for me eventually.
This guy screwed me out of $5000+ and I am still trying to get it back. I talked to the RMCP in NB and they said they would have to get back to me to make sure I was part of that $300K. If he doesn't pay up he will have to go to jail, but I don't know what will happen. It would be nice to get my money back.