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Two Men Accused of Reprinting Sports Cards for Profit

September 11, 1993|RENE LYNCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Two Orange County men are accused in a civil lawsuit of using their roles as directors for the Upper Deck baseball card company to reprint famous cards for personal profit.

William Hemrick, owner of at least 40 shares of stock in the San Diego-based company, alleges in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court that the men helped to defraud company shareholders of more than $10 million.

Parties to the suit could not be reached for comment Friday.

Orange County residents Boris H. Korbel and Paul D. Sumner, both officers and directors for the company, are among four defendants accused of "the secret manufacture and distribution to themselves of various sports trading cards," according to the suit.

Baseball card printings are typically halted when errors are discovered. As a result, the scarcity of such cards can drive their value above corrected cards featuring the same player.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants reprinted more than 13,500 copies of a famous 1989 error card that featured a reverse negative of baseball player Dale Murphy, who retired earlier this year from the Colorado Rockies.

The defendants have also taken trading cards for their own benefit, including certain error cards printed in the 1990 season, and reprinted sports cards featuring hockey star Wayne Gretzky of the Los Angeles Kings and quarterback Joe Montana, now of the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Defendants have sold a portion of said reprinted error cards for their own account and have misappropriated and kept certain other cards for their own future speculation," according to the suit.

Hemrick alleges in the suit that he alerted the board of directors of the company to the problem but no action was taken.

The Upper Deck company is generally credited with revolutionizing the lucrative industry with its upscale sports trading cards.

The company that reported $66.7 million in dividends in 1991 has since faced increasing competition, slowed growth and a $33.1-million jury award after being sued by a former corporate attorney who claimed he was owed a 3% stake in the privately held company.

A new trial has since been ordered in that case.

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