KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A Knoxville man was sentenced in federal court Monday for stealing thousands of dollars of sports cards from stores in four different states and selling them online.

Jason Cates, 38, pleaded guilty to conspiring to transport stolen sports cards and other sports merchandise across state lines. He was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to $289,266 in restitution and $50,000 as part of a forfeiture money judgment.

Cates admitted in his plea agreement to burglarizing multiple sports cards businesses in Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan and Georgia before returning to his Knoxville home and selling the stolen merchandise online.

In Kentucky, Cates and a co-conspirator reportedly stole about 1,000 sports cards in September 2021 from Lexington’s Kentucky Roadshow Shop. Cates tried to sell baseball cards on Facebook Marketplace with serial numbers that matched ones stolen from Kentucky Roadshow Shop.

When a prospective buyer asked about the cards on Facebook, Cates replied, “Got everything real cheap, didn’t have to pay full price, that’s why I bought it all,” according to the indictment.

The indictment also stated that Cates stole over $200,000 worth of merchandise from Breaking Bangers, a retails store located in Cartersville, Georgia. Some of the stolen goods found in a search of Cates’ Knoxville apartment still had retail labels from Breaking Bangers, according to the indictment.

Under federal law, Cates must serve 85 percent of his prison sentence.  Upon his release, his three-year term of supervision by the U.S. Probation Office will commence.

The sports cards and memorabilia market has become a major asset class in recent years. Before the pandemic, the sports memorabilia market was estimated at more than $5.4 billion, according to a 2018 Forbes interview with David Yoken, the founder of By 2021, that market had grown to $26 billion, according to the research firm Market Decipher.