Man charged in case of stolen Sox memorabilia
Weymouth resident Jamie Pritchard-Holland allegedly called a New York auction service last September and said he had a son dying of cancer and mounting medical bills. He needed money fast, he said, and was willing to auction off his vast collection of Boston Red Sox memorabilia given to him by none other than Theo Epstein, the team’s general manager.
But yesterday the tale was unraveled at a press conference in Long Island, N.Y.
“There was no sick child, there were no hospital bills, there were no doctors bills,’’ said Thomas Spota, district attorney for Suffolk County, N.Y. “There was nothing but pure greed on Holland’s part.’’
Pritchard-Holland, 32, was arrested in New York May 4 and charged with third-degree criminal possession of stolen property — a treasure trove of Red Sox items worth an estimated $25,000. It included a home plate, a pair of Dustin Pedroia’s cleats, Kevin Youkilis’s first-base glove, and four black duffel bags containing uniforms, caps, warm-up jackets, and other items.
Pritchard-Holland also had a center field marker signed by Red Sox great Johnny Pesky, whose family had also apparently been duped by the tale, authorities said. Authorities say the goods were stolen in a burglary of Fenway Park about a year ago, although Pritchard-Holland has not been charged with that crime. If convicted on the charges, he faces a maximum of seven years in prison. He was also charged in Boston Municipal Court March 31 with two counts of receiving stolen property and faces a maximum of five years in prison on each count.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains free on personal recognizance, due in court in New York June 7 and in Boston June 30.
Pritchard-Holland “got as far as he did with his lies because he was very convincing, believable, and smart,’’ said Joshua Leland Evans, founder of Lelands, the Bohemia, N.Y auction service that took the collection on consignment and had planned to include it in a $2 million sports memorabilia auction in December.
But Major League Baseball officials spotted the stolen goods for sale on Leland’s website and contacted Spota’s office, which launched a criminal investigation. Detectives in Spota’s office conducted an undercover operation and registered with the site as interested bidders.
Authorities were allowed to view and inspect the stolen merchandise at the auction service’s warehouse in Bohemia. The investigators then obtained a search warrant, seized the items, and arrested Pritchard-Holland in New York.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s hard to fool me,’’ Evans said. “But as smart as he [Pritchard-Holland] was, he was stupid for coming to us, because we give copies of our books to the MLB, the Red Sox, law enforcement, to everybody. It’s the worst-kept secret in the world.’’
The sports memorabilia industry is a billion-dollar business, specialists say.
“It just shows how utterly ridiculous the whole memorabilia issue has become,’’ said Joe Bick, president of Pro Star Management in Cincinnati. The agency represents Youkilis and other professional baseball players. “It’s obviously gone from being a nice hobby enjoyed mostly by kids to something that has become twisted into a money-making endeavor.’’
Phil Castinetti,, owner of Sportsworld Inc. in Saugus, which says it is the largest sports memorabilia store in New England, estimated the home plate alone could fetch as much as $10,000.
“It depends on who’s looking at it, but with those things in your possession, you could probably name your price,’’ he said. “The home plate after the ’04 World Series sold for $40,000.
According to Boston police reports, Fenway Park was burglarized April 15, 2010.
The center field marker was cut off the bullpen wall, and the home plate was stolen from the visitor’s bullpen. A stocky male was observed entering the clubhouse garage on Van Ness Street and walking off with four black duffel bags containing Red Sox equipment valued between $8,000 and $10,000, according to the reports.
Jake Wark, spokesman for the Suffolk County, district attorney’s office, said investigators are working to determine how Pritchard-Holland obtained the items.
“It’s the subject of an ongoing investigation, and we can’t comment at this point on that matter,’’ Wark said.
The Red Sox declined to comment on the case, citing the ongoing investigation.
Pritchard-Holland’s latest address was in Weymouth, but he also recently lived on Fox Hill Road in Nahant, authorities said. He could not be reached at either address yesterday.
Last month, Pritchard-Holland was found guilty in Plymouth District Court of stealing a 15-inch television from a
Evans, the Long Island auctioneer, said he even gave Pritchard-Holland a $2,000 loan as a gesture of compassion, after taking the items for auction.
“I totally blame myself for this,’’ Evans said. “You want to do due diligence and make that phone call. You want to contact Theo Epstein but don’t have the time. Once in a great while, things like this happen, and it’s a pity. But thankfully, there is a system of checks and balances.’’
Brian R. Ballou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org