*UPDATE: On Aug. 27, police laid additional charges against Singh after five more victims came forward. Singh is now facing six counts of fraud under $5,000, six counts of false pretenses under $5,000, three counts of using a forged document and three counts of forgery. EPS said Singh was arrested Aug. 26 and will appear in court on Sept. 23.
Police allege a man claiming to be from the Edmonton Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) or Pro Am Sports was selling authentic jerseys with fraudulent McDavid signatures online.
The accused in the case is Chandra Vinesh Singh, 23, who police said is also known to go by Vinesh Singh or Vinny.
EPS said in April of 2018, Singh allegedly contacted several people via Facebook claiming he was employed by either OEG or Pro Am Sports and was selling autographed McDavid jerseys.
Ken Cookson with Pro Am Sports told Global News Singh worked at Pro Am Sports before the allegations came forward.
Police say Singh allegedly sold two fraudulently signed jerseys for $1,400. The buyer in that case was Tyler Lickoch.
Lickoch had gone to high school with Singh and had previously purchased Oilers tickets from him without incident.
In April, Lickoch says he got a Facebook message from Singh saying he was selling authentic signed McDavid jerseys for cheap, because he could get them through work at Pro Am Sports.
At that point Singh no longer worked at the company – but he send Lickoch photos of autograph signing sessions at the store and had holograms and Pro Am Sports certificates of authenticity.
When Lickoch received the jerseys, though, he knew something was wrong.
“As soon as I saw them, right away I was like, ‘No, this is not authentic. It looks like a child scribbled it on.’ It didn’t look good,” he said.
Lickoch says he immediately reached out to Singh and asked for a refund.
“He said, ‘McDavid signed a whole bunch of things that day and it was probably from the end of the line of things he had to sign.'”
Lickoch wasn’t satisfied with that – and eventually got his money back. He also filed a police report.
“I had every reason to believe him but it ended up biting me in the end,” he said.
Then in February 2019, it was reported that Singh proposed an “investment opportunity” to someone via Facebook, which again involved Oilers jerseys that Singh allegedly falsely claimed were signed by McDavid.
Police said Singh also allegedly used fraudulent documents to support his claims. The victim was allegedly defrauded $23,000.
“The complainants were offered a business proposal from the accused to purchase jerseys and then resell them to buyers that wanted to pay more — so basically they would make a profit,” Burns explained.
Police said the accused took the money, but never came through with the jerseys.
Singh was charged with two counts of possession of forged documents, fraud over $5,000, fraud under $5,000 and false pretense.
The Edmonton Oilers Entertainment Group and Pro Am Sports confirmed the autographs on the jerseys sold last spring were not authentic.
“We’re very concerned. It’s very unfortunate that somebody is choosing to perpetrate this on our fans,” Tim Shipton, senior vice-president of the Oilers Entertainment Group, said.
On July 30, McDavid released a statement.
“I was very disappointed to learn that illegal merchandise, with my name, was being sold,” McDavid said.
“It’s important to me that fans and collectors aren’t getting taken advantage of and that they have a trusted source for authentic autographs. That is one of the main reasons I began working with Upper Deck.”
Both police and Pro Am Sports remind fans to be cautious when buying merchandise from non-licensed vendors and individuals online.
“Education, education, education and do your homework,” Jack Cookson, president of Pro Am Sports said.
“To echo what the police said: ‘If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.'”
He noted that the standard price for an authentic top-quality jersey signed by McDavid is $1,599.95 and has a special hologram on it.
Cookson added there’s also a matching hologram on the jersey’s certificate of authenticity, and they physically watch players sign their memorabilia.
In a statement, Shipton said “this is a good reminder for our fans to always go to trusted sources.”
Given the similarity of the incidents and the time over which they took place, police believes that there are likely other people who have been victimized.
Edmonton police said so far, five complainants have reached out to investigators — and Pro Am Sports said they’ve been contacted more than a dozen times by buyers asking about the jerseys.
Anyone who was contacted by Singh and bought autographed Connor McDavid jerseys or was offered to purchase or invest in McDavid jerseys is encouraged to go to a police station and provide a statement referencing EPS File 19-100147.
Edmonton police remind people to be careful when buying from non-licensed vendors and online.
For more information regarding Pro Am Sports’ authenticity program, please visit their website. For more information on where to find authentic Edmonton Oilers memorabilia, please visit the their website.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Sarah Kraus