Is It Real Or Is It A Haggard?
According to federal prosecutors and the defendant's guilty plea, Kerry Haggard, 47, Commerce, GA, used a New York-based printing company to make high-quality copies of horror movie cards or posters from either hard copies or digital scans of pieces he provided. It seems that Haggard had devious plans for these high-quality copies. Turning to the dark side, he enlisted the skullduggery of a restoration company to attach the copies to lobby card stock and to alter the resulting product to make it look as real as possible. Armed with these vintage-looking rip-offs, from January 2006 to August 2009, Haggard marketed them as vintage, collectible originals on eBay.
Why bother, you might ask. Well, some of these fakes - for classic screamers such as the movie "Frankenstein" or "Son of Frankenstein" - fetched from $50 to $5,000. In some cases, collectors traded their bona fide collectibles for Haggard's fabricated phonies. So, this con artist had two baited hooks in the water: He would sell you a fake or trade you for it. The bait must have looked tasty because 25 little fish apparently bit down hard on the whole "trust me" aspect of this eBay scam and lost at least $1.3 million in money and property.
This idiotic scam reaped $1.3 million? Wow, now that's scary!
The thing about these art forgery cases is that I'm never quite clear why the fraudster doesn't think far enough ahead to anticipate that some authentication expert will blow the whistle. In this case, once the bogus goods made their way on consignment to reputable auction houses or to other art experts, the sham was revealed. The angry peasants were armed with torches and pitchforks, hot on Haggard's trail - of course, more importantly, so was the FBI.
In April 2010, Haggard was arrested and released on bail. Sadly, he didn't quite seem to understand how the whole arrest and bail process worked because shortly after his release, he attempted to enlist the assistance of an individual to hide from the FBI and an angry mob of his victims various items that were part of the fraud. That got him re-arrested without remand.
You'd think he would have learned a few things from that misstep. You know, like not trying to reanimate a six foot tall homicidal maniac in an abandoned castle, or not looking into the eyes of Count Dracula. Apparently not. While in jail, Haggard enlisted his girlfriend and son in further efforts to hide various assets involved in his fraud. Haggard seems to have become haggard. You're in jail and now you got your girlfriend and son doing your illegal bidding while you run things from your cell? Great plan. Maybe next time you could text the Invisible Man and get him to carry out your nefarious deeds?
On October 24, 2011, Haggard pled guilty to one count of mail fraud.
On April 9, 2012, Haggard was sentenced in Manhattan federal court to 78 months in prison; three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment fee. Additionally, the Court imposed a $1.38 million forfeiture judgment and a $1.38 million restitution order.
Bill Singer's Comment
Not that there isn't major crime afoot and daily threats of terrorism but, hey, nice to know that the folks protecting us from the bad guys are onto this horror movie stuff. I mean, okay, someone has to get between me and the wolfman - it's not like I'm carrying around silver bullets these days; and, another thing, with all the vampire on television and in the movies, what are the odds that I'm going to drive a sharpened wooden stake into the real deal rather than some Hollywood wannabe?
Of course, the horror of this case is that it must strike real fear into the hearts of the movie industry. The shareholders of Disney, IMAX, Dreamworks, Sony, can't sleep well at night knowing how easy it is to steal their valued icons and damage the brand so easily. Here it took little more than a scanner, a printer, and some old card stock. Imagine how easy it would be to clone Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. Why we could have zombie armies of cartoon characters and monsters adorning the walls of our homes and dorm rooms.
On a more serious note - an art forger gets 78 months in prison for this? For an impassioned rant on the whole topic of federal criminal sentencing, read this article (I think the title sort of gives away my bias): 97 Months In Prison For Stealing Wall Street Trading Code But Only 18 Months For Selling Computers to Terrorist State of Iran ("Street Sweeper," February 22, 2011).