Memorabilia scam fraudster Steve Pearson avoids jail for selling fake celebrity autographs
Fraudster Steve Pearson celebrated on stage with Pompey after their 2008 FA Cup Final victory
A fraudster who admitted selling thousands of pounds worth of memorabilia with forged celebrity autographs has avoided jail.
Steven Pearson, 51, a former stadium announcer at Portsmouth FC, claimed items were signed by Sir Alf Ramsay, Peter Shilton, and boxer Muhammad Ali.
A trading standards manager said he used his "semi-celebrity status" in the city to befriend collectors.
He even celebrated on stage with the team after 2008's FA Cup Final victory.
Pearson, from Portsmouth, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of fraud and three counts of theft at the city's crown court.
A judge sentenced him to 14 months in prison, suspended for two years, and told him to pay £2,574 compensation and carry out 200 hours of community service.
Trading standards manager Peter Emmett said it was 'a very big case' that affected a number of victims
Peter Emmett, from Portsmouth trading standards, said experts had confirmed the signatures on items worth about £2,500 in total were forged.
He said Pearson only admitted to writing Muhammad Ali's autograph on a boxing glove, but had not checked if the other items were genuine.
"They trusted Steve Pearson when they went to his shop, talked to him, he then befriended many of them." Mr Emmett said.
"[Working for Portsmouth FC] gave him a semi-celebrity status in the eyes of the victims."
Portsmouth Trading Standards seized items bearing forged signatures, but could not say if Steve Pearson had forged them
Jane Boddie said she bought thousands of pounds of memorabilia from Steve Pearson
Jane Boddie said she thinks she spent thousands of pounds on items bought from Pearson: "He had a fantastic album full of all sorts of players, all sorts of people, all signed, all with him shaking hands.
"It does make you feel pretty gutted, especially as football's a team game, you don't expect somebody to do that to you."
Emi White had two collectable pictures, including one of of Muhammad Ali, which Pearson agreed to sell and then stole from her.
She said when she realised it was a scam she felt "foolish" and added: "I thought he was nice and completely believed in him.
"He was throwing out names of footballers that he knew."
Emi White had valuable pictures of Muhammad Ali stolen from her by Steve Pearson