Trials & Litigation

NY Giants, Eli Manning, team lawyer face civil RICO suit in claimed sale of fake 'game-worn' items


A collector and reseller of sports memorabilia has filed a civil racketeering suit in state court in New Jersey against the New York Giants, star quarterback Eli Manning and the team’s general counsel William J. Heller, Newsday (reg. req.) reports. The suit (PDF) contends they and other defendants, including a dry cleaner, had a role either in the sale of football items falsely claimed to be “game-worn” or helping to cover up what happened after the fact during a related federal investigation.

A team co-owner, John K. Mara, who is also an attorney, is named as a defendant on other counts of the complaint, but not the cause of action pursued by plaintiff Eric Inselberg under the New Jersey Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act

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New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Ken Durden / Shutterstock.com

Filed Wednesday in Bergen County Circuit Court, the 16-count complaint alleges trade libel, misappropriation and tortious interference with Inselberg’s activities amidst what it describes as a pattern of racketeering activity, including alleged witness intimidation in a related federal criminal investigation, by some of the defendants. It seeks unspecified compensatory, consequential and incidental damages, prejudgment interest, treble and punitive damages, attorney fees and a 2007 Super Bowl ring. It also asks for a restraining order against some of the defendants to prevent “further incidents of fraud” and restitution “for the identifiable nonparty victims” of the claimed scheme.

Also among the football items at issue in the case, are two Super Bowl helmets from 2012, plus a helmet Manning supposedly wore during a 2008 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. It is displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, court papers say.

In a statement provided to Newsday and other publications about the legal action, a Giants representative said: “This suit is completely without any merit whatsoever and we will defend it vigorously. We will not otherwise comment on pending litigation.”

Inselberg was one of six dealers in sports memorabilia who was federally charged with fraud in 2011 concerning the sale of what law enforcement described as bogus game-worn jerseys. However, the charges were dropped by the Department of Justice last year, after Inselberg’s defense lawyers, Michael Critchley and Edmund DeNoia, contended that several witnesses, including three Giants employees, lied to federal agents and a grand jury, the New York Daily News reports.

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