Man sentenced to 5 Years for sports card burglary spree in KY, TN, MI, GA

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Jason L. Cates, 38, was sentenced in federal court on Monday to five years in prison by Chief U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves for conspiring to transport stolen sports cards and other sports merchandise across state lines. 

According to his plea agreement, from August 19, 2021, to October 14, 2021, Cates burglarized multiple sports cards businesses in Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, and Georgia, taking thousands of dollars of sports cards and other merchandise and transporting it across state lines back to his home in Knoxville, Tennessee.  He then sold the cards to buyers he found online and kept the proceeds for his own financial benefit.

Cates admitted the following in his plea agreement:

(a) In the fall of 2021, Defendant Jason Cates lived in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was serving a term of supervised release following imprisonment for a federal bank robbery conviction in July 2015 in the Eastern District of Tennessee.

(b) On August 19, 2021, the Defendant burglarized Webb’s Cards and Collectibles, a business in Knoxville, Tennessee, that specializes in selling sports cards and sports collectables. He stole several boxes of sports cards, opened the boxes and later sold individual cards at a card show and over the internet, to customers around the United States.

(c) On September 22, 2021, the Defendant drove to Lexington, Kentucky, along with R.M., his romantic partner, for the purpose of burglarizing Kentucky Roadshow Shop (KRS). They arrived late and the Defendant dropped off R.M. at a 24-hour restaurant, while he executed the burglary at KRS just after midnight. During the burglary, the Defendant took several items including a 2018-2019 Donruss Optic Basketball card box, two Donruss Optic Football Asian Exclusive card boxes, and a case of 10 in-house prepared baseball card mystery boxes. Collectively, these items had a retail value of approximately $10,000. R.M. stayed in contact with the Defendant throughout the burglary and devised a navigable route out of Lexington to Interstate-75, leading back to Tennessee. After some vehicle trouble, the Defendant and R.M. eventually returned to Knoxville on September 23, 2021, with the stolen sports merchandise. The Defendant sold that merchandise to various customers over the internet, usingFacebook marketplace and other sales tools. Some customers were located outside Tennessee. For example, one customer, A.B., who lived in Newburgh, Indiana, purchased a Topps 1964 Ernie Banks baseball card. The Defendant shipped the stolen card to A.B. in Indiana in return for payment.

(d) On or around October 2, 2021, the Defendant traveled to New Buffalo, Michigan, where in the middle of the night, he used a hammer to break in and burglarize a business called the Sport Card Shop. He took approximately seven packs of sports cards, including Top Chrome Soccer cards and Immaculate Collection Baseball cards. The Defendant sold the cards in the following days to individuals either in person or over the internet as described above.

( e) Breaking Bangers is a sports card and merchandise retail store, located in Cartersville, Georgia. From October 4, 2021, to October 14, 2021, the Defendant and R.M. made a total of three road trips from Knoxville to Cartersville in order for the Defendant to burglarize Breaking Bangers. Each time, the Defendant used a hammer or crowbar to smash a window at Breaking Bangers to gain entry. During the first two burglaries, the Defendant took several sports card box sets, but on the third robbery, he broke into the store’s main office and stole a much larger amount of sports card merchandise. The Defendant sold some of the merchandise from the first two burglaries, shipping it to buyers both in and outside of Tennessee; but did not sell any of the merchandise from the last burglary before being arrested by the Knoxville Police.

(f) The Defendant admits that, in total, the value of the stolen merchandise he burglarized and transported across state lines exceeds $250,000, but is less than $550,000. The restitution amount owed to the four business victims, offset by any stolen merchandise already returned, is as follows: Webb’s Cards and Collectibles: $37,111; Kentucky Roadshow Shop: $10,000; Sport Card Shop: $2,500; and Breaking Bangers: $226,886.

In addition to his prison sentence, Cates was also ordered to pay $289,266 in restitution and $50,000 as part of a forfeiture money judgment. 

Under federal law, Cates must serve 85 percent of his prison sentence.  Upon his release, his three-year term of supervision by the U.S. Probation Office will commence.

Carlton S. Shier, IV, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky; Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Louisville Field Office; Paul Noel, Chief of the Knoxville Police Department; Frank McCann, Chief of the Cartersville, Georgia Police Department; and Lawrence Weathers, Chief of the Lexington Police Department, jointly announced the sentence.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI, the Knoxville Police Department, the Cartersville Police Department and the Lexington Police Department.  The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Moynahan.

Kentucky Roadshow, one of the burglarized businesses. 📸: Tom Wilmes