A Maryland man has been charged with selling fake autographed memorabilia and defrauding Alabama TV stations out of thousands in advertising costs for fraudulent websites, according to federal court records.
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Douglas Edward Duren agreed this month to plead guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Alabama. Authorities alleged he sold items with forged signatures, including sports collectibles and movie posters, over a nine-year period on three fake websites.
Duren was also accused of impersonating advertising agency employees, promising to pay several television stations in Birmingham and Madison County up to $75,000 to advertise the websites, AL.com reported.
The FBI eventually launched an investigation into the scheme and discovered that Duren would obtain items without autographs, then forge signatures on the memorabilia and sell them online based on false claims of authenticity, according to officials.
Court records stated that Duren later moved to Atlanta, where agents saw him buy a baseball in a glass case and a pack of permanent markers. His websites listed autographed balls from players for the Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and others.
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Duren also advertised an autographed “Avengers: Endgame” movie poster and had autographed books by a former U.S. president and a former first lady, all deemed fake.
He could face up to 20 years in prison and forfeiture of $277,000. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney who could comment for him.
The Associated Press contributed to this article