The New York Times is reporting that New York City law enforcement will announce grand larceny charges against former New York Mets clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels (pictured right with former Met Mike Piazza) later today. Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources in the Queens district attorney's office said the focus of the investigation centered on "a pattern of theft over several decades, from autographed bats and balls and other equipment to hundreds of uniforms." One source placed the value of the items allegedly stolen by Samuels "in the millions." (NBC New York put the figure at $2 million.)
Samuels lost his job after 27 years with the club last November when the NYPD and Queens district attorney's office began investigating his involvement with a sports gambling ring. A source close to the investigation told the New York Daily News that Samuels was a "spider who sat in the middle of a money web," who used his inside information to bet on baseball. (In an interview with league investigators, Samuels confirmed placing bets on baseball.) The team had already suspended Samuels a week earlier amidst an internal probe into whether he skimmed money from hotel rooms during road trips and used Mets checks to pay off his gambling debts. The investigation shifted from the gambling to the missing memorabilia after they didn't turn up anything to suggest Samuels was linked to organized crime
In a highly unusual arrangement, Samuels held the positions of traveling secretary and equipment manager, in addition to his clubhouse duties. This goes a long way towards explaining how he avoided detection for so long. "On most teams, the three jobs are held by two or three different people," explains the Times. "Because he held all three, Samuels had unfettered access to everything at the club and he operated, several of the people said, with almost no oversight. He had control of the team’s road account, tickets, equipment purchases and other matters." The proximity to players and access to equipment made for a veritable memorabilia mint. Those in the know tell the Times that Samuels would over-order jerseys for each player at the beginning of the season (most teams order ten-per-player) and then keep the rest. And because signing autographs for fans and the marketing department is a regular part of a big leaguer's day, so it didn't seem out of the ordinary that Samuels would "regularly ask players to sign equipment or uniforms." Plus, they liked him. Outfielder Jeff Francoeur gave him a $50,000 tip when he was traded to Kansas City, and closer Francisco Rodriguez moved in with Samuels after a public altercation with his girlfriend at Citi Field.
Among the noteworthy and valuable missing items linked to Samuels, according to the Times and Daily News:
- "A full set of 40 autographed uniforms worn during the 1986 World Series"
- "A full set of autographed uniforms worn during the commemorative 9/11 game played just days after the 2001 attacks."
- "Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of autographed player jerseys and other memorabilia from the '86 team," (pictured right) discovered in a Port St. Lucie storage facility.
- "A great deal of equipment and jerseys...signed by Mike Piazza, Tom Glavine, and Roberto Alomar."