Lawsuit accuses Giants, Eli Manning of distributing fraudulent memorabilia


According to a civil-racketeering, breach-of-contract, malicious-prosecution and trade-libel suit filed Wednesday in Bergen County (N.J.) Superior Court, a helmet displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton as the one Eli Manning wore in Super Bowl XLII is a fake.

The New York Post reports that sports memorabilia collector Eric Inselberg alleges that the helmet is one of many forgeries passed along by the team as they “repeatedly engaged in the distribution of fraudulent Giants memorabilia.” According to the suit, the team’s equipment manager Joe Skiba told Inselberg he created fake memorabilia at the behest of team management and players, including helmets purportedly worn by Manning in each of his Super Bowl victories, and the lawsuit includes an email that they believe shows Skiba knew he was handing over ersatz goods.

The suit also alleges that the team’s dry cleaner has been part of the activities by doctoring up jerseys to look like they’ve been worn in games before being sold. That dry cleaner, Barry Barone, is named as a defendant in the case along with Skiba, Manning, owner John Mara, team lawyer William Heller, CFO Christine Procops, locker room manager Ed Wagner Jr. and equipment manager (and Joe’s brother) Ed Skiba.

Inselberg, who provided items from his collection for the team’s Legacy Club at MetLife Stadium, was indicted for selling bogus merchandise in 2011, but the case was dropped last year when prosecutors decided “prosecution was no longer appropriate in light of some new facts that were pointed out to us by defense counsel.” That decision came days after Inselberg’s lawyers told the court that Giants employees who testified to the grand jury about Inselberg were lying about their involvement in passing along the questionable memorabilia.

“When the Government came knocking on the Giants’ door, the response was a coverup that threw Inselberg under the bus to protect themselves and the team,” the suit alleges.

Giants treasurer Jonathan Tisch said on WFAN Thursday morning, via Neil Best of Newsday, that the suit has no merit. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning wouldn’t answer a question about his brother’s alleged involvement at Thursday’s media availability.