Yo, Philly, do you remember when Eagles linebacker Charles “Concrete Charlie” Bednarik flattened New York Giants halfback Frank Gifford, ending the game with an Eagles victory in 1960?
Well, you can bid on an autographed copy of that moment, captured in a famous black and white Sports Illustrated photograph, courtesy of Mark Begley, a Cherry Hill man whose Philadelphia sports memorabilia was confiscated after his arrest two years ago for mortgage fraud.
Not only did Bednarik sign the photo — one of about 200 sports items that were seized from Begley — but he scrawled “this [expletive] game is over” in black marker across the top and “Sorry Frank” at the bottom.
The Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office is selling the goods, along with some bling and electronic equipment that was confiscated from other convicts, in an online auction that ends Monday.
The money will go into a fund for police training and police equipment, according to Bill Rudderow, an agent assigned to the forfeiture unit.
The jerseys, pictures, footballs, helmets, ball caps, hockey pucks and sticks, bats and baseballs were amassed over several decades by Begley, who operated a mortgage loan business in Moorestown.
Another notable item in the collection is a souvenir baseball bat signed by Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay, who died last week in a plane crash. Also up for bid is a souvenir jersey signed by Mike Eruzione, captain of the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. team that beat the mighty Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.
Preview day for the auction was Tuesday, when the various items were displayed at the county’s emergency services building for inspection by the public. Bids are being accepted online at Alfredsauctions.com. The items are sold as is, with no guarantees as to their authenticity.
Lewis Pinkerton of Mount Holly was among a dozen people who showed up shortly after 12 to gawk at the lineup. He said he has collected a few things — “an Eric Lindros jersey, unsigned, and some hockey pucks with the Flyers logo.” But Pinkerton, 60, said he didn’t have money to splurge on the autographed collectibles and likely would not make an offer.
What caught his eye, however, was a Flyers jersey signed by hockey great Bobby Clarke. “He was one of my favorite players,” Pinkerton said. “I was born and raised in Philly.”
Alfred Finocchiaro, who runs Alfred’s Auctions, said he typically sells vehicles, once or twice a year, for the county. The sports collection is an unusual offering and is attracting interest, he said.
A diamond-encrusted Cartier watch confiscated from illegal drug sales is the most valuable item, he said. It was appraised at $18,000 by a jeweler.
“This stuff had to be collected over a lifetime, maybe 30 years or more,” he said, declining to speculate on their potential worth. The owner “must have spent a lot of time going to games and chasing down people to get these things signed. On one hand, it’s really sad he lost his collection, but what’s really sad is that he took other people’s money to do this.”
Some of the signed pieces say “To Mark” on them, and are less valuable, Finocchiaro said. Athletes frequently include a fan’s name with a signature to prevent their names from being used for profit.
But potential buyers named Mark might see these items a little differently. “If your name is Mark — holy cow,” Finocchiaro said. Finocchiaro also said chemical products can be used to remove the words “to Mark” on an item.
Mark Begley, 53, was sentenced a year ago to four years in prison, and served about six months before he was paroled on Aug. 5, 2016, according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections website. He pleaded guilty to charges of theft by deception and failure to pay state income taxes. He also was ordered to pay $182,740 in restitution to the four families he defrauded, said Joel Bewley, spokesman for the Prosecutor’s Office.
Begley told clients he could help them procure reverse mortgages, refinancing packages and loan modifications, Bewley said. Then he pocketed what each of the clients paid him, between $15,000 and $110,000.
“The money he obtained illegally was used to sustain his lifestyle and included the sports memorabilia,” Bewley said.
Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said in a statement that the office hopes the auction will attract interest “so that the proceeds from items originally purchased through the illegal gains of criminal activity can instead be used for expenses that will help make our community safer.”