2 WA men accused of selling fake Pokémon, sports cards in $2M scheme

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Two men from Washington were arrested Thursday for their involvement in selling fake sports and Pokémon trading cards in a $2 million scheme over two years, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that Anthony Curcio, 43, of Redmond and Iosif Bondarchu, 37, of Lake Stevens are accused of a fraudulent scheme to defraud buyers and marketplaces to purchase the cards at false and inflated prices.

The attorney’s office said low-to-mid grade cards were given high-grade ratings from a reputable card authentication company, Company-1, which buyers paid more money for the cards. 

According to an indictment, from 2022 to May 2024 Curcio and Bondarchuk tried to deprive victims of over $2 million through their sales and attempted sales by misrepresenting the grade of the cards. The card grade assigned by Company-1 significantly impacts the market value of the card. 

The pair allegedly sold and tried to sell the fake cards at in-person card shops, auctions and card shows and Curcio sold the cards online using third-party sellers. 

They also repeatedly used fake names and identities in order to conceal their involvement in the scheme. Curcio had gone by the name “Brendan Wooley” and Bondarchuk went by the name, “Joe Bondarchuk.”

One of the fraudulent cards sold in the alleged scheme, was a misrepresented 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan #57 rookie card. It was graded as an 8 with an estimated market value of between $6,000 and $7,000.  The indictment said the same card, when graded as a 10 by Company-1, had an estimated market value of between approximately $185,000 and $203,000. 

Among the fake cards sold was a 1986 Fleer Michael Jordan #57 rookie card (the “1986 MJ Card”).  (U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York)

The two also sold cards of several high-profiled athletes like Tom Brady, Nolan Ryan, Larry Bird, Julius Erving and Magic Johnson, in addition to several Pokémon cards, the Department of Justice said.

Some of the other cards Curcio and Bondarchuk tried to sell were a 1999 Pokémon Venusaur card and a 1999 Pokémon Charizard card. 

Among the fraudulent cards were a 1999 Pokémon Venusaur card and a 1999 Pokémon Charizard card. (U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York)

In July 2023, an undercover officer purchased the misrepresented Venusaur card for $10,500. 

“As alleged, Anthony Curcio and Iosif Bondarchuk carried out a brazen, nationwide fraud scheme involving valuable sports and Pokémon trading cards to deceive buyers and marketplaces, ultimately amassing over $2 million in fraudulent and attempted sales,” said Damian Williams, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “Thanks to our law enforcement partners, the dedicated prosecutors of this Office, and the many victims who came forward, this alleged fraud has had its last dance.  Our message today is clear: no matter what product you’re selling, if you try to deceive the public to make money, you will be brought to justice.” 

A Brand Protection team with PSA, a third-party authentication and grading company, had been working with the FBI in building a case against Curcio, as many of the card had been sold in fake PSA holders. The company said anyone who purchased a PSA-graded item and would like to confirm the authenticity can visit their Customer Request Center and complete a Brand Protection Request.

Curcio and Bondarchu were both charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud. The pair each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted.

The Department of Justice confirmed with FOX 13 that in 2008, Curcio pepper-sprayed an armored car guard outside a bank, then escaped down a creek on an inner tube with $400,000. He was arrested and spent the next five years in prison.

FOX 13 spoke with Curcio in 2014. At the time, he was speaking to schools whenever he can about the drug use that contributed to his criminal life.

“I lost 5 years in prison, physically removed from everything that I loved. You can never get that time back,” he said. 

FOX 13 Seattle spoke to Don Joss, the owner of DJ’S Sportscards in Renton. Joss tells us his business got hit in the scam, costing his business thousands of dollars. Joss said he helped the investigators with the case.

“We had ID. We had video. We had all kinds of proof that he walked in and made that transaction. We had his phone number from when he called. We had all kinds of information, and we had the physical evidence that we sent to the FBI,” he said.

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