Man suspected of stealing Tom Brady’s jersey ID’d as Mexican journalist
This time maybe you really can blame the media.
The mystery of Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl LI jersey was solved Monday when the NFL and Houston authorities announced it had been recovered in Mexico with the help of Houston police, the FBI, Mexican law enforcement, and the Patriots.
The suspect was identified as Martin Mauricio Ortega, formerly of the Mexican tabloid La Prensa. Ortega , who has not been charged, allegedly used his press credentials to enter the Patriots’ locker room and take the jersey.
La Prensa released a statement Monday afternoon offering an apology for the “unfortunate events” and condemning Ortega’s alleged actions. The publication said Ortega had offered his resignation more than a week ago but it did not know of the allegations against him until Monday.
Ortega told the paper he was offering his resignation because he was going through some difficult personal problems related to the health of close family members.
Houston police chief Art Acevedo said the jersey had been turned over to the NFL and the FBI, after what he described as “outstanding work” by his police department.
“You don’t come to Texas and embarrass us here on our home turf,’’ Acevedo said. “It was not our highest priority, but the only blemish on our Super Bowl was the theft of the jersey.’’
In an interesting twist, it was revealed that a second Brady jersey, this one from Super Bowl XLIX, also was recovered. It had not been previously reported that that jersey, from the win over the Seahawks in 2015, had been stolen.
Additionally, Fox Sports reported that authorities also recovered the helmet and cleats worn by Denver’s Von Miller in the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 win.
It was unclear Monday whether those items were also part of the investigation into the theft of the jersey.
“Our investigators developed information from an informant here that led them to Mexico,’’ Acevedo said, describing the investigation into the missing jersey. “As a result, we were able to work with the FBI and Mexican authorities and the jersey, along with the one from Super Bowl XLIX, were subsequently recovered.
“They were taken to Boston, where efforts are underway to authenticate the jerseys. We’re highly confident that these are, in fact, the jerseys,’’ Acevedo said.
Brady issued a statement on the recovery via agent Don Yee.
“I am happy my jerseys from SB 49 and SB 51 have been recovered, and I want to thank all of the law enforcement agencies involved. I know they worked hard on this case — and it is very much appreciated. Hopefully when I get the jerseys back I can make something very positive come from this experience,” Brady said.
Acevedo said he “fully anticipated” charges being brought against Ortega by the US attorney’s office and said that video of Ortega at the Super Bowl was used in the investigation.
TMZ released video, allegedly of Ortega, entering the Patriots locker room and later leaving with something, presumably the jersey, tucked under his left arm.
Acevedo was quick to point out that his department didn’t have jurisdiction over locker room security but suggested the league needs to overhaul its procedures.
“I just hope the NFL security takes a look because they are the one’s responsible for securing the locker rooms,’’ he said. “They really need to check their protocols and their efforts because there are these two jerseys we are aware of and required a response from the Houston Police Department and other partners to recover them. Quite frankly, they are going to end up in the hands that they belong — Mr. Brady and his family.’’
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy released a statement confirming the recovery of the jerseys in an early-morning tweet, citing the “cooperation of the NFL and the New England Patriots’ security teams, the FBI, and other law enforcement.”
News of Brady’s missing jersey first surfaced shortly after the dramatic win over the Falcons when the quarterback was heard on tape telling team owner Robert Kraft that someone had swiped it from his bag.
A video posted on Twitter showed Brady looking for the jersey in his bag in the locker room in the chaos after the victory.
“It was right here, I know exactly where I put it,’’ the quarterback said.
The next day, Brady expressed regret about the missing jersey.
“It’s unfortunate, because that’s a nice piece of memorabilia,’’ Brady said. “If it shows up on eBay or something, somebody let me know. I’ll try to track that down.
“Those are pretty special ones to keep. But what can you do? I’ll take the ring. That’s good enough for me,’’ he said.
In a police report filed on the incident with the Houston police the day after the game, the value of the jersey was set at $500,000 by Brady “or one of his people.”
However, a Lelands auction house representative told the Globe in February it could be worth as much as $1 million.
In an interview last month, Kraft compared the jersey to a piece of fine art.
“It’s very sad to me that someone would do something like this,” said Kraft, “and it’s like taking a great Chagall or Picasso or something. You can never display it.”
Acevedo and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas both took the crime personally.
Patrick leaned on the state’s familiar motto, posting on Facebook, “You don’t mess with Texas.’’