It took the perfect combination of a fan who happens to be a sharp-eyed collector to help crack the case of Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl jerseys.
The big break in the mystery of the missing jerseys, which began when Brady’s jersey from Super Bowl 51 was stolen Feb. 5, came when Dylan Wagner, a 19-year-old sports memorabilia collector and New England Patriots fan who lives in Seattle, saw something and said something.
“I knew exactly who had it,” he told CBS Boston’s Cheryl Fiandaca. “I was able to provide two addresses to search.”
That’s because Wagner had previously made contact with Martin Mauricio Ortega, the man in whose possession the jerseys were found, back in December, when Wagner sold him a jersey on eBay and the two swapped photos of their collections.
“He sent me 30 photos of his collection. Front and center was Tom Brady’s Super Bowl XLIX jersey,” Wagner said. “I asked him outright, ‘How did you get that?’ and he says ‘I’ll tell you later.’ ”
Wagner shared the photos from Ortega with Christopher Arone, a friend who happens to be a collector and, to Ortega’s misfortune, a special agent and public information officer in Boston’s Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives office. At that point, however, few knew that the XLIX jersey also had gone missing in 2015.
When Brady told officials that someone had taken his LI jersey in February, Arone got in touch with Wagner.
“He sent me a link to an ESPN article. It stated it is not the first time a jersey was stolen from Brady and it happened after the Seahawks Super Bowl,” Wagner said. “I couldn’t believe this guy would have the audacity to go in and steal something that someone worked so hard for.”
The case was broken by the FBI and multiple law-enforcement authorities and video of the Patriots’ locker room showed Ortega, a credentialed member of the international media, walking out with something under his arm.
“He [Arone] said the video doesn’t prove anything,” Wagner said. “Without the photos I sent him they wouldn’t have been able to get a search warrant to go into Ortega’s basement [in Mexico] and get the jerseys.”
Attempts to reach Wagner have been unsuccessful and Arone, in an email to The Post, said that he could not comment on the matter at this time.
The jerseys now are back with Brady, who admitted that the LI jersey was especially important to him because his mother has been undergoing treatment for cancer and he had dedicated the game to her. The LI jersey in particular was valued as high as $500,000, with Patriots owner Robert Kraft likening the heist to the theft of a “a great Chagall or Picasso.”
Brady had kept his thoughts about the theft to himself, saying initially, “It’s unfortunate, because that’s a nice piece of memorabilia. So if it shows up on eBay, someone let me know and I’ll track that down. Those are pretty special ones to keep.”
Within about two weeks after the theft in February, Brady told his father that investigators were on the trail of the culprit. “The only thing I knew is that they had a lead on the guy for the last month,” Tom Brady Sr. told The Post’s Adam Kilgore last month. “He told me they kind of know who the guy is, and they have him under surveillance.”
Earlier this week, the Patriots shared video of Kraft presenting Brady with his jerseys and, on Monday, he took the LI jersey to Fenway Park, where he threw out the first pitch before the Red Sox’s home opener. He and Rob Gronkowski even had a little fun, with Gronkowski grabbing the jersey and running off with it. Brady scampered after him, retrieved it and made sure it never left his clutches again.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Cindy Boren