Kerry Haggard’s love of Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolf Man made him many friends in collecting circles.
Now some of those former friends are suing the Commerce man in federal court, claiming he bilked them out of more than $1 million by trading in counterfeit movie posters and lobby cards in a case that has the horror film collectibles community buzzing.
“It’s unprecedented,” said Jim Gresham, a Michigan man who became friends with Haggard and his wife, Tiffany, through their common interest in vintage horror movie posters. “The entire hobby was fooled. It’s definitely hurt the value of posters.”
Gresham is one of at least three people suing Haggard over what they say was a complex con that stretched from Haggard’s Banks County home to printing facilities in New York and a master restorer in California.
Meanwhile, the FBI has opened a criminal investigation into the matter, officials said.
Haggard, through court filings, has denied the allegations. Efforts to reach him or his attorney last week were unsuccessful.
Court documents allege Haggard fraudulently provided collectors with well-made fakes of posters and lobby cards for such Universal classics as “Dracula” (1931), “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), and “The Black Cat” (1934).
Collectors quote staggering values for some authentic posters of that era.
A title card for “Dracula” goes for $40,000 on the collectible market, and the “one sheet” for “The Black Cat,” another film starring screen legend Bela Lugosi, is valued at $286,000, according to Gresham’s suit.
Gresham says he was provided fakes of those and other posters through trade and purchase from Haggard, for losses totaling $852,000.
Gresham, who owns a snow plow business in the suburbs of Detroit, said he got into the hobby as an alternative to investing in the stock market. He wouldn’t say exactly how much he paid for “The Black Cat” poster, but allowed it was “in six figures.”
Another collector, Ronald Magid of Los Angeles, claims Haggard took him for $130,000 after Magid traded authentic memorabilia for Haggard’s alleged fakes.
Gresham, who visited Haggard several times in Georgia and even spent a European vacation with him, said Haggard was able to amass a prize collection of legitimate vintage posters through trades. Gresham accuses Haggard of then using top-notch printing facilities in New York to reproduce the posters and employing a restoration specialist in California to help give them a vintage appearance.
“He fooled me, and he fooled everyone else in the hobby,” Gresham said.
Haggard, 46, has since filed for bankruptcy. Last week, two people suing him filed claims in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Georgia, seeking to prevent Haggard from discharging debts that were the result of alleged fraud. The court cases are pending.
Gresham’s attorney, Joseph Ejbeh, said he took a deposition from Haggard last month and that Haggard now claims to be homeless and living out of his truck.
Meanwhile, federal authorities are saying little about the probe into possible poster counterfeiting.
“There is an ongoing investigation by the FBI in New York, and any other information will come out at the appropriate time,” said Special Agent Richard Kolko.