Cards recovered in $2 million theft at Ohio hotel

Police have found 52 of the 54 cards reported stolen last month

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Police have recovered 52 of the 54 cards stolen from an Ohio hotel after the theft of more than $2 million in collectibles was reported last month, sources tell cllct.

Authorities arrested a former employee at the Best Western Hotel in Strongsville, Ohio, who quit during the investigation, sources said.

In a Facebook post Friday, the Strongsville Police Department identified the two missing cards as a 1909 T204 Ramly Walter Johnson PSA 5 and a 1941 Play Ball #14 Ted Williams PSA 8.

The case of the stolen cards was a strange one, particularly due to the fact they were shipped via FedEx in a package from Memory Lane Inc., a vintage sports and memorabilia auction house.

Memory Lane had sent the package, stocked with 54 extremely rare and expensive cards, to the Best Western the day before the Strongsville Sports Collectors show, where it planned to display the cards in the lead-up to its auction, scheduled for early May.

The package arrived and was signed for, but was nowhere to be found when an auction house employee arrived to pick up the box.

Auction houses typically have insurance to cover the value of expensive items during shipment, as well as on-site insurance for protection against damages that could occur at a show.

This was the case with Memory Lane, which found itself in no-man’s land since the package had been signed for and not yet brought to the card show.

Strongsville police were dispatched to the hotel April 18, according to the SPD report. After which point they opened an investigation into the case.

Rather than pull the cards, which were no longer in the auction house’s custody, from the auction, Memory Lane proceeded with the sale under the advisement of the police, as they had a lead on the suspect and didn’t want to tip off the culprit.

“We refrained from making any official statements specific to the stolen cards until receiving approval from detectives assigned to the case,” Memory Lane wrote in a release. “This was crucial to maximize their efforts in retrieving the stolen cards as quickly as possible.”

The auction house said it would follow up individually with the winning bidders, offering to “proceed with final purchase if [they] still desire.”

Among the stolen cards included in the auction were rare Cracker Jack cards and high-grade cards of Mickey Mantle and Roberto Clemente.

The high-value nature of the cards, in addition to the unique serial numbers identifying each on their slabs, make them quite easy to track. PSA, one of the third-party authenticators, immediately deactivated the cards from its database, meaning anyone who attempted to verify their authenticity would see they were invalid.

Given the publicity of the theft, which garnered headlines across the country, it would have been that much more difficult for the perpetrator to walk into a shop and sell the cards without anyone catching on.

The full list of cards stolen from the hotel has not been made public.

Will Stern is a reporter and editor for cllct.