April 21, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Two men pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to sell stolen, limited-edition Nike sneakers to collectors who spend thousands of dollars for a single pair of shoes.

Tung Wing Ho and Jason Keating changed their pleas the same day their trial had been scheduled to start. The third member of the conspiracy, Kyle Yamaguchi, was sentenced to probation two weeks ago after U.S. District Judge Garr M. King praised him for being extremely cooperative with government investigators.

Ho worked as promotional product manager for Nike's basketball division, generating interest in company products by providing unique sneaker designs to famous players such as LeBron James and their entourages.

Ho ordered the sneakers directly from a manufacturing plant in China. Investigators eventually learned that Ho was ordering extra pairs and then stealing them when they arrived at company headquarters in Oregon.

Keating, of Fort Myers, Florida, sells rare sneakers to private collectors. Between August 2012 and March 2014, he paid Ho and Yamaguchi $680,000 for more than 630 pairs of the stolen basketball shoes - about $1,080 per pair. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Bounds said Keating, operating under the pseudonym Artaphax.

Neither Ho nor Keating made a statement at their back-to-back hearings. Each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport, receive and sell stolen goods. Other charges were dropped in a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Bounds said he will recommend that Ho receive a prison term of one year and one day when he is sentenced Aug. 5. A Mercedes-Benz that Ho purchased with the ill-gotten gains was seized last year and he has already paid restitution.

The prosecutor plans to recommend the same sentence for Keating, but that's only if the seller follows through with a promise to provide the government with a list of the collectors who bought the rare sneakers and how much they paid. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 2.

The maximum possible sentence is five years in prison.


Follow Steven DuBois at twitter.com/pdxdub

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