NEW YORK, May 12 (UPI) -- A former clubhouse manager for the New York Mets pleaded not guilty to charges he stole $2.3 million in collectibles from the team.
Charlie Samuels entered his plea in Queens Criminal Court Wednesday to charges he stole signed jerseys, bats, helmets and other equipment from the team, the New York Post reported Thursday.
"The autographed sports memorabilia and collectibles industry has become a multibillion-dollar industry and this case exposes its darker side -- the enthusiast who does not collect for personal enjoyment but rather stockpiles hundreds of pieces of sports memorabilia as a long-term investment," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
Samuels, 53, spent most of his adult life working for the Mets. He is also accused of falsifying business records so he could allegedly skim $25,000 from meal money the team paid to umpires and with cheating on his city and state taxes.
"The defendant had a dream job that any Mets fan would die for and he blew it," Brown said.
Defense attorney Michael Bachner said Samuels didn't steal team memorabilia.
"Charlie was entitled to the unsigned property and over time had players sign it … . It was throwaway material," Bachner said.
The Mets fired Samuels last year after an audit found he wrote checks from the team to cover his personal expenses.
"The Mets terminated Charlie Samuels' employment with the organization on November 12, 2010, following an internal investigation in which we discovered improprieties and violations of club policies," the Mets said in a written statement.
Samuels was released on $75,000 cash bail. He could be sentenced to up to 25 years if convicted.