LOS ANGELES (CN) — A New Jersey man pleaded guilty to pretending to be a former New England Patriots player in order to purchase three Tom Brady "family" Super Bowl LI rings and selling them to an auction house.
Scott Spina Jr., 24, entered a guilty plea to five counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and identity theft at a hearing Tuesday in federal court in Santa Ana, California. Although the maximum sentence for the crimes is 92 years in prison, he likely will face a much shorter prison term at his sentencing May 23.
"Guilty, your honor," Spina said when the judge asked him how he's pleading for at each of the five counts.
Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady was the most valuable player of Super Bowl LI, played on Feb. 5, 2017, when the New England team staged the biggest come-back win ever in Super Bowl history, coming back from 28-3 down to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in overtime. The dramatic and historic victory caused a tremendous demand for memorabilia from the game, according to prosecutors with the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.
In September of 2017, Spina got in touch with a former Patriots player identified only as "T.J." in court filings. Spina agreed to buy T.J.'s Super Bowl LI ring and used at least one bad check to pay for it and some of T.J.'s college football rings. With T.J.'s ring, Spina also obtained paperwork from the company that makes the Super Bowl rings with a web address and T.J.'s login and password to purchase additional rings for friends and family.
Spina then called the ring company and pretended to be T.J. He told employees at the ring company he wanted to buy three family rings, which are a little smaller than the players' rings but otherwise very similar, engraved with "Brady" to give to the quarterback for his family. He used a cashiers check to pay $31,757.86 to the ring company in Minnesota.
In the meantime, Spina had contacted a buyer and seller of championship rings in Orange County, California, to whom he had sold T.J.'s Super Bowl LI ring for $63,000 in cash. He told the potential buyer that he could get three Tom Brady Super Bowl LI family rings that the quarterback was going to give to his nephews on Thanksgiving.
The buyer in Orange County, however, couldn't verify that Brady had any nephews and pulled out of an agreement to buy the rings from Spina for $81,500. Instead, Spina sold the rings the same day he received them from the ring company in November 2017 to an auction house in New Jersey for $100,000, pretending he had bought them from a family member of Brady.
One of the rings sold by auction for $337,000 in February 2018.
Spina's plea agreement with the federal prosecutors gives him the option to appeal his sentence if the judge sends him to prison for more than 65 months. The prosecution reserved the right to appeal the sentence should the judge send him to prison for less than 57 months.
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