A New Jersey man who impersonated a former New England Patriots player so he could buy and sell so-called “family versions” of Tom Brady’s Super Bowl championship ring was sentenced Monday to three years in prison.
Scott V. Spina Jr., 25, already has experience in federal prison. He served 30 months for an unrelated wire fraud scheme involving false promises of high-end sneakers. Two Bureau of Prisons employees were so impressed with his conduct behind bars that they wrote letters to the court asking that he be allowed “to immediately re-enter society.”
But nearly two years after his release, he’s set to return in a separate yet also sporty case involving the now-quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that his lawyer said “is an example of how the rich and famous in the country are treated differently than the average person.”
“If this case did not have a connection to Tom Brady, the former quarterback for the New England Patriots, it is almost certain there would not have been an investigation by law enforcement,” according to an eight-page memorandum from Spina’s lawyer, Thomas Ambrosio of Lyndhurst, N.J.
Ambrosio asked for Spina to be sentenced to the minimum two years in prison, based on his prior conviction, but U.S. District Judge David O. Carter in Santa Ana, California, on Monday went with three years and ordered him to pay $63,000 in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. As he said he’d do in a Dec. 20, 2021 plea agreement, Spina pleaded guilty on Feb. 1 to one count of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
The case was prosecuted in the Central District of California’s Southern Division in Orange County because Spina tried to sell the fraudulently obtained rings to a broker who is based there.
The deal fell apart after the broker realized Brady doesn’t have nephews, despite Spina’s claim that the NFL great had originally given the three family rings Spina was selling to his nephews. Spina instead sold the rings to an auction house for $100,000, which then sold one in February 2018 for $337,219, according to court filings, but he’d already collected money from the Orange County broker as deposits for the ring purchases, which is the basis for his three wire fraud convictions. Spina mail fraud conviction stems from falsely telling the broker the rings were ordered for Brady for family members, and the identity theft conviction stems from Spina posing as a former New England Patriots player to purchase the rings.
According to his plea deal, Spina impersonated the player after buying his Super Bowl LI ring in 2017 “with at least one bad check,” according to prosecutors, then selling the ring for $63,000. That initial purchase gave him information about how players can buy rings for family and friends, so Spina posed as the player to buy three.
Ambrosio’s sentencing memorandum casts Spina’s misuse of the information as a byproduct of his industry knowledge, writing: “When Mr. Spina realized that T.J. had given him a username and password to purchase three ‘family’ rings is when Mr. Spina’s knowledge of sports memorabilia got him into trouble.”
“Mr. Spina correctly assumed that a family Super Bowl ring with the same ‘Brady’ inscribed on it could be sold to sports memorabilia collectors for more money than a family ring inscribed with T.J.’s name,” Ambrosia wrote.
The memo identifies the player only as T.J.
Spina met him though a business he’d started at age 15 selling sneakers and sports memorabilia, and the player is the only one who approached Spina about buying the ring after he was no longer playing and needed money, Ambrosio wrote. Ambrosio also noted the conduct occurred before the separate conduct that resulted in Ambrosio already serving 30 months in prison, which involved stealing his customers’ credit card information while taking money for sneakers they never received.
Spina told Judge Carter his time in prison “changed my life regarding my perspective in valuing the smallest things in this world, and understanding how every action has a consequence.”
“I am no longer that young, reckless, and selfish person,” Spina wrote in a letter filed with Ambrosio’s memo, calling prison “the most challenging time in my life.”
“I was housed with people that I never was exposed to before in my life. The first call on my first day I made home was to my father and simply said ‘Dad this is not a life I want to live. I am ready to come home,’” Spina wrote. “I realized I had to make my time useful while being away therefore, I utilized every resource and program that was offered, and I completed each one I started. Seeing my mom cry every time she left to visit me, had me asking myself, how I did not know these actions not only impact my life but those that love me.”
Ambrosio included with his memo letters from 2020 when Spina was petitioning for early release in his previous case, from two Bureau of Prisons employees who supervised him when he was housed at FCI Schuylkill in Minersville, Pennsylvania. Safety Specialist Lester Kohe, said Spina “performed exceptional work and maintained a professional attitude.” Procurement and Property Specialist William Rasinger said Spina “has by far been the best worker I had.”
“No matter how much work I gave him, he was always asking for more and what needs done next,” Rasinger wrote.
The FBI’s Art Crime Team investigated the case. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Silber of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.
[Image via Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images]
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