Blasting Off Again: Pokemon TCG frauds arrested for $2 million PSA scam

After two years of direct investigations, the FBI has finally brought charges against two men for forging and selling falsified graded trading cards, specifically Pokémon TCG products, to unsuspecting buyers.

According to the court overview, Anthony Curcio and Iosif Bondarchuk sold over $2 million USD worth of slabbed Pokémon and sports cards with falsified grades from the Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA). This went on from 2022 to 2024, at minimum, and featured the duo scamming buyers around the United States by offering graded cards they altered to reflect greater quality than their actual value at in-person venues and online marketplaces.

Pokemon Cards with Fake PSA label.
These cards look official but have been altered. Image via United States Department of Justice

This behavior continued even after multiple parties notified Curcio that his products were fake or externally altered. In one instance, the pair defrauded the Manhattan Marketplace of $225,000 in fraudulent sales to at least eight individuals, which the shop had to partially repay in damages to affected buyers. 

In the court documents, several products such as a 1986 Michael Jordan card, a Steph Curry Rookie card, and multiple Pokémon cards like a Base Set Charizard are all shown in PSA 10 falsified PSA shells—many of which the accused party attempted to misrepresent in sales. This, and other instances of reported scamming and mis, led to PSA getting directly involved with law enforcement. 

Michael Jordan Card for sale with Fake PSA label.
This massive sale features a forged PSA shell. Image via United States Department of Justice

In July 2023, an undercover agent purposefully purchased a fake PSA 10 Base Set Venusaur from Curcio for $10,500 after Bondarchuk previously attempted to sell the card. Once the transaction was complete via the money hitting Curcio’s bank account, the pair shipped out the card, proving they were performing “wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, stemming from sales of fraudulent sports and Pokémon trading cards.”

Following this interaction, the FBI investigation through Curcio’s operations uncovered purchases linked to various products that would allow him to forge or alter PSA casings, including “grading cases, thermal transfer barcode labels, a magnifier loupe optical glass, a handheld inkjet printer, a lock-cutting kit,” and much more. Should Curcio and Bondarchuk be convicted, this crime carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. 

“Protecting collectors from fraud like this is a top priority for all of us at PSA,” the company said in a statement, adding that it is “an important step forward” for the wider hobby when illegal networks are shut down. “PSA is focused on making sure its holders, labels, processes, and technology are continuously evolving to stay ahead of the bad actors in the hobby.”

This incident comes just weeks after GameStop announced it would be making a big push into graded Pokémon cards and PSA finalized a new deal with eBay to streamline selling, grading, and more for card collectors.

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