Photographer who sold collection to former North Little Rock photo archivist wins recovery

Rogers trove due photographer, 89

Posted: April 18, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

John Rogers

John Rogers

Marvin Newman, a professional sports photographer from New Jersey, won the recovery of his career archives in a unanimous jury verdict Monday in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

A sports photographer for 70 years, Newman agreed to sell his archives in a 2013 deal with John Rogers, a former North Little Rock photo archivist.

Newman prevailed in his case against John Conner, a Newport farmer and businessman who helped fund some of Rogers' purchases of photographs and newspaper archives.

More than 10 lawsuits have been filed against Rogers in Arkansas since 2013 claiming fraud. First Arkansas Bank & Trust of Jacksonville, which made loans and extended lines of credit Rogers, sued Rogers for more than $15 million in loans that he didn't repay.

Conner won a judgment of $9.6 million against Rogers, an amount that Matthew Mullins, Conner's attorney, said his client doesn't expect to be able to recover.

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Newman, 89, was introduced to Rogers by a marketing executive with the New York Yankees. Rogers had a Mickey Mantle Yankees jersey that he wanted verified, Newman testified. Rogers said he had paid $300,000 for the jersey, which was purported to be from the 1955 season. If the jersey was actually from 1956, Rogers said, it would be worth at least twice as much since Mantle won baseball's triple crown -- most home runs and best batting average and RBI total -- in 1956.

The Yankees executive and Rogers visited Newman's studio, and Newman compared the jersey Rogers had with photographs Newman had taken of Mantle in 1956.

Newman concluded that the jersey was from 1956.

Later, Rogers looked at Newman's photo archive and offered to pay him $400,000, sending him a FedEx package containing 48 postdated monthly checks for $8,333.33 each. For several months, the checks cleared the bank.

But after a January 2014 raid by the FBI on Rogers' home and businesses, the checks began to bounce, Newman said.

Several days before the FBI raid, Conner began to have similar problems with payments Rogers was making on Conner's loans.

"That was the first time he had ever missed a payment," Conner said.

One of the loans Conner made to Rogers was to cover Rogers' deal with Newman. Conner had possession of Newman's photo archives.

Conner testified that his chief financial officer "thought all along that Rogers was a fraud."

"It turns out he was right," Conner said.

Newman testified Monday that neither he nor his New Jersey attorney filed Newman's contract with Rogers under the uniform commercial code.

The code is a group of laws that aim to standardize state laws that apply to commercial transactions.

Conner's attorney argued that because nothing was on file about Newman's deal with Rogers, there was no way for Conner to know about it.

In 2015, Newman sued Rogers, two Rogers businesses, two banks, Conner and Mount Pleasant, Texas, businessman William Hogan. Newman won a judgment against Rogers, and some other defendants were dismissed. Conner was the last of eight defendants left in the lawsuit.

Newman has been an award-winning photographer for magazines such as Sports Illustrated, Look, Life, Fortune, People and Smithsonian.

Last week, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray awarded Hogan a judgment of more than $42 million, including more than $30 million in punitive damages, against Rogers. Hogan and his attorney said they don't expect to recover any of the money.

Hogan lost more than $9.5 million to Rogers in what Hogan's attorney called a Ponzi scheme. A Ponzi scheme is a fraud where past investors are paid with the funds raised from new investors.

Rogers admitted in a plea agreement in federal court in Chicago that he carried out a fraud scheme between 2009 and 2014 through his two businesses, Sports Card Plus and Rogers Photo Archive, that resulted in losses of more than $9.5 million to investors, customers and financial institutions.

Rogers is to be sentenced in Chicago in September.

Business on 04/18/2017