The New York Giants and quarterback Eli Manning are asking for dismissal of a sports memorabilia dealer’s suit claiming that his business dealings with the team landed him in criminal trouble
In a brief filed March 20, team attorney William O’Shaughnessy says plaintiff Eric Inselberg “will never be able to prove that the complained of testimony of any named defendant, whether perjured, suborned or otherwise, was the proximate cause of his indictment.”
Inselberg was one of several dealers ensnared in a federal investigation into sale of fake game-worn items to collectors.
Inselberg claims that for years he bought official jerseys and other items from team equipment managers Ed Wagner Jr., Joseph Skiba and Edward Skiba, Joseph’s brother. He says Barry Barone of Park Cleaners in Rutherford, who laundered team gear, was involved.
Inselberg resold the items through his sports memorabilia business, including items worn by players in games, which commanded a premium price.
He claims Wagner and the Skibas— at the direction of players, chiefly Manning—doctored some items to appear game-worn when they weren’t.
He alleges the Skibas lied to investigators and a federal grand jury about supplying Inselberg, and Barone denied any business relationship with him, all of which led to mail fraud charges based on the high number of supposedly game-worn items Inselberg had sold.
Much of the lying, Inselberg claims, was carried out at the direction of team general counsel William Heller.
The counts were dismissed at the prosecutor’s request after Inselberg’s lawyers, Michael Critchley and Edward DeNoia of Critchley, Kinum & Vazquez, proffered evidence of Inselberg’s innocence. The ordeal cost him millions in lost business, as well as legal fees and emotional damages, he claims.
Inselberg also claims that many of Manning’s fakes were given to memorabilia retailer Steiner Sports, which in turn unwittingly sold them to collectors. Among them, according to the suit, were two Manning helmets that sold for $46,000 and $11,500—one purportedly worn in Super Bowl XLVI.
On March 20, four separate motions to dismiss were filed by the team, Manning, the Skibas and Wagner.
In the team’s motion, O’Shaughnessy, of McCarter & English in Newark, called Inselberg’s complaint an “altogether vicious and irresponsible filing.”
“Because of Grand Jury secrecy restrictions, no one knows or will ever know what evidence…moved it to indict,” but it’s “incontrovertibly clear” that it wasn’t “because of the testimony of any Giants’ employee concerning the number of jerseys he provided to Inselberg,” O’Shaughnessy wrote.
The suit, he said, does not mention that two cooperating witnesses stated that Inselberg was involved in fraud or that the government’s charges were based on “specific orders and shipments” of memorabilia that had nothing to do with the Giants.
And the government’s voluntary dismissal came on the heels of evidence that a cooperating witness gave false testimony about Inselberg’s involvement in fraudulent activity.
“That is all that is known as to why the Government, in its discretion, moved to dismiss,” he wrote. “Certainly there is nothing in the record supporting Inselberg’s allegation that his attorneys” proved perjury by Giants witnesses.
As for the alleged unpaid finder’s fee, O’Shaughnessy said the “whole notion that the Giants…needed Inselberg to establish a banking partnership with JP Morgan Chase is preposterous.”
O’Shaughnessy called Inselberg’s allegations about Heller— previously a McCarter & English partner—”a scurrilous attack on…a lawyer with over thirty years of experience in private practice in this state.”
In Manning’s brief, Israel Dahan of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in New York called the suit “a shameless effort to grab media and public attention” that “only contains a handful of allegations concerning [Manning's] purported involvement in the creation of ‘fake’ game-worn jerseys and helmets.”
Dahan noted that Inselberg alleges no direct relationship with Manning or Manning’s involvement in any alleged fraud.
The allegations “are simply preposterous and further confirm that Plaintiff and his attorneys’ inclusion of Manning as a defendant in this action is nothing more than an inappropriate attempt to capitalize on Manning’s fame and public notoriety,” Dahan wrote.
He also criticized the timing of Inselberg’s complaint—just days before the Super Bowl was to be played in Manning’s home stadium.
Both lawyers blasted Inselberg’s lodging of statutory racketeering claims against the defendants.
In response, one of Inselberg’s lawyers, Brian Brook of Clinton Brook & Peed in New York, said: “There is considerable and compelling evidence supporting the allegations in the complaint, most of which has not been made public at this preliminary time.”
As for the filing’s proximity to the Super Bowl, he says the Giants had “considerable control over the timing, as we had sent them a draft of the complaint almost three weeks before filing, and they made the choice not to engage in any dialogue whatsoever.”
Red Bank solo Michael Kasanoff, another lawyer for Inselberg, says the motions “severely misconstrue the elements and proofs in relation to the various causes of action alleged in the Complaint.”
O’Shaughnessy’s brief didn’t address allegations that the team misappropriated a wireless in-stadium marketing program that Inselberg’s invented, patented and shared with the team officials. Those allegations are central to a pending jurisdictional dispute in the case. The team removed the suit to federal court based on patent law issues, while Inselberg is seeking remand to state court, claiming no such issues exist.
O’Shaughnessy, reached by phone, declined comment. Dahan didn’t return a call.
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