NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A memorabilia dealer is taking aim at the New York Giants in a lawsuit that alleges the team and quarterback Eli Manning knowingly created and pushed fake game-worn items in order to hang on to the real stuff themselves.
And it could become a real headache in East Rutherford.
The New York Post first detailed the lawsuit brought by Eric Inselberg in Thursday’s paper. Inselberg claims that Giants equipment manager Joe Skiba and locker-room manager Ed Wagner Jr. doctored items to appear game-worn, sometimes with the help of the team’s dry cleaner.
The lawsuit also alleges that Manning, seeking to keep possession of his own items, was a participant in the ruse.
“The Giants told me this suit is completely without merit and I have no reason to believe otherwise,” Manning said in a statement on Thursday afternoon. “The Giants are going to fight it and so will I.”
On Thursday morning, Giants co-owner Jonathan Tisch said on WFAN radio that the team will fight the allegations.
“The organization will defend itself,” Tisch said on the “Boomer & Carton” show. “They just feel that there’s no merit and the Giants will always defend themselves.”
The owner of Park Cleaners in Rutherford, which was also named in the suit, refused to comment on the case, CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes reported.
Among the claims, Inselberg says the quarterback requested a helmet from Skiba in 2005, signed it and tried to pass it off as “used during his 2004 rookie season,” according to the lawsuit.
“The allegations against Eli are allegations,” Tisch said. “We know that he is a first-class guy and comes from a fantastic family. And they are only allegations.”
“We’ve tried to ask our kids to always do what’s right,” Eli’s father Archie Manning said Thursday on the “Boomer & Carton” show. “I think Eli’s tried to do what’s right. … The Giants have always been in my opinion a classy organization. So we’ll get through this.”
Inselberg alleged that Skiba faked two helmets that were never actually worn by Manning in Super Bowl XLII, one of which was “ordered” by a team vice president and eventually handed over to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the lawsuit says.
“Hey Joe, my buddy was offered an eli game used helmet and jersey,” Inselberg allegedly wrote to Skiba in an email exchange included in the lawsuit. “Are these the bs ones eli asked you to make up because he didnt want to give up the real stuff?”
Inselberg received “BS ones, you are correct” in reply, according to the lawsuit.
Steiner Sports unknowingly sold and re-sold some of the memorabilia, the lawsuit alleged.
The Justice Department dropped charges of fraud against Inselberg last May, citing “some new facts that were pointed out to us by defense counsel.”
Inselberg claimed in the lawsuit that the Giants instructed Skiba and his brother “to lie to federal investigators and the grand jury about how much Giants sports gear they sold him over the years,” the Post reported.
Inselberg’s lawyers said he suffered losses “well into the eight figures.”
“I don’t think words can describe the way he feels right now,” attorney Brian Brook said.
According to the lawsuit, Inselberg claims his life has been destroyed. He says he has been diagnosed with several things, including post traumatic stress disorder.
“This suit is completely without any merit whatsoever and we will defend it vigorously,” the Giants said in a statement. “We will not otherwise comment on pending litigation.”
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