HE was a trusted son of Portsmouth whose voice was heard by thousands at Fratton Park.
But now Steve Pearson’s reputation – built up as stadium announcer during Pompey’s spell in the top flight – has been left in tatters after admitting selling a string of fake sports and showbiz memorabilia.
The 51-year-old ran a ‘production line’ of collectors’ items after buying cheap football shirts and photos of sporting icons off eBay before adding forged signatures of the celebrities.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard Pearson’s celebrity pals included former England goalkeeper David James but now many no longer speak to him after he tricked punters out of thousands of pounds.
The Tesco shelf-stacker’s fakes included a ‘signed’ Bobby Moore football shirt and a photo of Diego Maradona shaking hands with England legend Peter Shilton at the 1986 Mexico World Cup. He also had multiple copies ready to sign of a photograph of boxers Muhammad Ali and Henry Cooper,
Peter Shilton even told trading standards it was not his signature, prosecutor Michael Shaw said.
Pearson, a former Pompey youth team player who once won a national award for his stadium announcing, sat in the dock showing no emotion during the hearing.
Mr Shaw told the court: ‘He engaged in the wholesale production and sale of counterfeit signed memorabilia of various sorts.’
He added: ‘Having purchased items, he in effect ran a production line producing items and photographs – one would be sold and another one would be created. He created documents called certificates of authenticity.
‘They were in effect created by Mr Pearson to give him an aura of legitimacy.’
He engaged in the wholesale production and sale of counterfeit signed memorabiliaProsecutor Michael Shaw
Trading standards at Portsmouth City Council launched a probe after a woman doubted the authenticity of a signed photograph of England football player Sir Alf Ramsey.
In interview Pearson told investigators the evidence ‘didn’t sound good’ but did not admit to the crimes.
In court, it was revealed he was made redundant from his cherished club in 2009 and set up shop first at Emporium in London Road, Widley, and then later at Hall of Fame, in London Road, Hilsea.
The court heard he turned to fraud selling the faked goods to customers. Not all the items he sold were fake.
Pearson, of Chatsworth Avenue, Cosham, even stole items he promised he would sell on for collectors.
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The court heard he promised he could sell Portsmouth man Peter Price’s late mother’s Elvis Presley memorabilia collection to fund her burial plot.
Instead, Pearson kept the items and never handed over the cash – something he did to another couple planning a fundraiser for a disabled children’s charity.
‘I feel very sad because I have been left with no collection and no plot to lay my mother to rest,’ Mr Price said in a statement.
Mr Shaw added: ‘Although these items didn’t have massive economic value on the open market, they were of considerable value to them sentimentally. These are not people who were well-off.
‘These were people often in difficulties who had to sell memorabilia.’
Other fakes Pearson sold included a £99 guitar ‘signed’ by three members of Queen.
Recorder Rufus Taylor said Pearson’s fraud was sophisticated and committed over a sustained period of time.
Mr Taylor handed Pearson a 14-month prison sentence suspended for two years with 200 hours’ unpaid work.
He must pay back £2,574 in compensation between seven victims.
Pearson pleaded guilty to nine frauds by false representation, four offences of having an article for use in fraud and three thefts.
The judge ordered the seized items, most of which do not form part of the charges, to be destroyed in 28 days unless Pearson can prove any of them are genuine.
Nick Tucker, defending, said: ‘Steven Pearson is a son of this city, he’s lived in Portsmouth all his life and it’s, I think, fair to say he’s given a lot to the city and played a significant part in the life of Portsmouth.’
Mr Tucker handed up newspaper clippings detailing Pearson’s work and fame, including running a marathon for charity.
He added: ‘The reality is in committing these offences he has gone from being well-liked and respected in the community to an object of contempt and subject of vilification.’
Trading standards officer Craig Copland said: ‘The fact that he’d worked at Fratton Park when Pompey were in the Premiership gave him credence with collectors, because he’d rubbed shoulders with some big names.’
Pearson has no previous convictions.