by Max Brantley
Justice Department officials are usually reluctant to talk about ongoing cases, but a lawsuit filed earlier this year by San Francisco collector Mark Roberts provides a rare peek into the Chicago investigation: Court papers indicate Rogers is under scrutiny because he sold Roberts, a wealthy Bay Area resident, what were described as vintage and valuable photos of 19th and early 20th century baseball players that turned out to be reproductions worth far less than what Roberts paid for them.
The lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court, names Rogers and his photo archive company as defendants and claims the Arkansas businessman sold the photos to Roberts “at greatly inflated prices, at least 20 times their true value.”
The lawsuit says Roberts paid more than $2.5 million for almost 3,000 photographs between 2006 and 2010. Roberts bought the photos to display on “The National Pastime Museum,” a website dedicated to sharing baseball’s long history with fans. He learned there were questions about the photos’ authenticity in 2013, when the curator of the website, baseball historian Frank Ceresi, consulted with the FBI and experts from the New York Public Library.
...The lawsuit also raises questions about Rogers’ relationship with baseball memorabilia dealer Peter Nash, the former hip-hop artist who gained fame in the late 1980s as “Prime Minister Pete Nice” of the group 3rd Bass. The FBI, according to court papers and a source familiar with the investigation, questioned a longtime acquaintance of Nash’s this summer about the former rapper’s ties to what the Roberts lawsuit describes as a “not authentic” 1858 trophy ball.