GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Norton Shores man was sentenced to 30 months in prison for selling fake sports cards over the past three decades.

Bryan Kennert, 57, was given the more than two-year prison sentence after he was found guilty of selling $43,000 worth of sabotaged antique baseball card packs to a couple in a Muskegon antique store between April and October 2019.

Photos provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Western Michigan show some of the fraudulent cards Kennert used in his scheme. (Oct. 18, 2022)

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Western Michigan, Kennert told the couple that the packs were “original and unopened” when he had actually unsealed the packs, removed the valuable cards and then resealed the packs to make them look like they were brand new.

The couple said they visited Kennert eight times in 2019, spending thousands of dollars on tampered packs. It wasn’t until they had the cards authenticated that they discovered they had been duped.

More packs in question in the investigation against the cards sold out of Muskegon antique store in 2019. (Oct. 18, 2022)

Homeland Security Investigations launched an investigation into Kennert and searched his home, where they say they found fake cards and supplies to make them. If the cards discovered in Kennert’s home were real, authorities said they would be worth an estimated $7.3 million.

Officials said in a statement that the scheme had been going on for 30 years and Kennert told agents that he made “around $100,000 a year” selling the fake cards and packs.

Lou Brown has worked in the sports memorabilia industry for 34 years. 

He owns Legends Sports and Games in Grand Rapids and says buyers must use caution, especially if they don’t know the seller.  

“You have to know who you’re buying from, and that’s what it really comes down to. You need to be cautious with where you’re buying. If it’s already authenticated, you’re probably safe,” Brown said, noting that any high-dollar collection should be assessed by a reputable company before purchase. 

“The one thing I say to people when they’re looking at collections or items, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Why would somebody sell something for 20% of what it’s worth?”

Brown said you can sometimes spot a counterfeit wax pack by checking the seal on the back for evidence of tampering. 

“That’s the ‘tell’ on the back, at least for the packs. You can (also) look at the corners (to see) if the wrapper is where it should be,” said Brown. 

For single cards, he said fakes are sometimes printed on card stock that’s too thin, among other signs.

“The card stock is terrible, the colors are terrible, or the texture is smooth versus flat,” said Brown, adding that squiggly lines through the picture is more evidence the card is counterfeit.