Tom Brady’s jersey, the one he wore during the New England Patriots historic comeback and overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, had been missing since shortly after the game ended. On Monday, the NFL announced the jersey had been found through the cooperation of the league’s security team and the FBI.
The jersey, valued at $500,000, would fetch a hefty price on the memorabilia market. The league said that the jersey had been found in the possession of someone who had posed as a member of the international media. That person is suspected to be C. Martin Mauricio Ortega, formerly of Mexican news organization La Prensa, though Ortega has not been charged with any crime at this point.
In an unexpected twist, the league also announced that this person also had Brady’s jersey from the Patriots Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seattle Seahawks. Until Monday, that missing jersey hadn’t made headlines. But the fact that it had also been stolen may be part of the reason that the jersey from Super Bowl LI became such a big story.
Here’s a complete timeline of the theft and recovery of Tom Brady’s missing jerseys:
Feb. 6, 2005 - Ortega poses with Tom Brady for a photo at Super Bowl XXXIX
Ortega has been attending Super Bowls for over a decade, and met Brady in Jacksonville when the Patriots beat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, according to Eric Edholm of Yahoo! Sports. Ortega took a photo with Brady, which is generally a frowned-upon practice for credentialed media members. For the record, so is stealing jerseys.
Feb. 1, 2015 - Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX; Brady’s jersey goes missing
While it wasn’t publicized, someone walked off with Brady’s game-worn jersey from New England’s 28-24 Super Bowl win over the Seahawks.
Feb. 5, 2017 - Patriots win Super Bowl LI; Brady’s jersey goes missing again
Brady and the Patriots executed a dramatic comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons, taking a Super Bowl to overtime for the first time in NFL history. After the game, Brady discovered that his jersey was missing. He appeared to be “flustered” and immediately enlisted help from team equipment managers and security personnel.
Feb. 6, 2017 - Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick enlists the aid of the Texas Rangers
"In Texas we place a very high value on hospitality and football," Patrick said, according to the Texas Tribune. "Tom Brady's jersey has great historical value and is already being called 'the most valuable NFL collectable ever.' It will likely go into the Hall of Fame one day. It is important that history does not record that it was stolen in Texas."
Feb. 8, 2017 - Houston police chief is less than enthused about tracking down the jersey
The Houston Police Department was also on the case, as it was clearly its jurisdiction. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo tried to keep things in perspective.
“It might be the highest priority for [the] lieutenant governor,” Acevedo said via The Statesman. “I can tell you we had three homicides the night of the Super Bowl in the city of Houston, and we’d like to find it. But I don’t think we’re burning the midnight oil worrying about a jersey.”
Feb. 10, 2017 - Patriots hope Brady’s missing jersey is just on the equipment truck
Law enforcement hoped that the jersey, and James White’s game-winning touchdown ball, would be found on the Patriots equipment truck. The truck had not been thoroughly searched, but when it was unloaded, the jersey was not there. White’s touchdown ball was found, though details on its recovery are unavailable.
Feb. 14, 2017 - Robert Kraft compares Brady’s jersey to “a great Chagall or Picasso”
“It’s very sad to me that someone would do something like this. It’s like taking a great Chagall or Picasso or something. You can never display it. And somehow, I feel there’ll be some news that’ll clear this up in the not-too-distant future,” Kraft said to Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo.
Feb. 21, 2017 - Brady’s jersey valued at $500,000 in police report
Maybe the jersey isn’t quite as valuable as priceless works of art, but $500,000 is still a pretty penny. That’s how it was valued in a Houston Police Department report obtained by TMZ.
Feb. 22, 2017 - Tom Brady initiates his own search for the missing jersey
Brady’s elaborate suspect board included Lady Gaga, Gollum, and Julian Edelman. It did not, however, appear to include anyone posing as a member of the international media. So maybe this investigation was better left to professionals.
March 20, 2017 - Brady’s Super Bowl LI and Super Bowl XLIX jerseys are recovered with help from the FBI
The NFL confirmed Jay Glazer’s report that league security, working in tandem with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, had recovered Brady’s missing jerseys. The jerseys were found in the possession of a person who had posed as a member of the international media, according to the league’s statement.
One might think the FBI would have more pressing issues to attend to, but it had to become involved because the theft of Brady’s jerseys was an international issue.
Glazer said on Fox Sports’ Undisputed on Monday that the person who took the jersey had followed Bill Belichick into the Patriots locker room after the game. Video from the locker room revealed that this “person of interest” was carrying a backpack and left with something under his arm.
Acevedo tweeted that the Houston Major Offenders division had located the jerseys in Mexico. He confirmed that the jerseys had been recovered with assistance from Mexican authorities. According to the Associated Press, the Houston Police Department was operating off of a tip from an informant.
The NFL is referring all questions about the case to the FBI, because the investigation is ongoing. The FBI’s satellite office in Boston currently has both jerseys and is working to authenticate them, according to the Associated Press report.
March 20, 2017 - The jersey thief also had a Broncos helmet believed to be Von Miller’s
Glazer noted that the same person may have taken Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller’s helmet following Denver’s win. A Broncos helmet was found in his possession, and the team believes it is the one Miller wore during his MVP performance in Denver’s Super Bowl 50 win. The helmet is currently considered evidence, but it will be returned to the Broncos, according to Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post.
March 20, 2017 - La Prensa releases statement suggesting former executive C. Martin Mauricio Ortega was involved in the situation
La Prensa, a Mexican news organization, released a statement Monday afternoon indicating that Ortega, a former executive with the organization, had been involved in the jersey theft.
The statement confirms that Ortega resigned from his position with La Prensa on March 14, and his resignation was accepted. La Prensa was unaware of his involvement in the jersey theft at the time of his resignation and reacted to the news “with total surprise and disappointment.”
March 20, 2017 - Tom Brady releases a statement
Brady shared his thoughts on the recovery of his missing jerseys.
Tom Brady statement via his agent Don Yee pic.twitter.com/B6BeRgiBxD— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 20, 2017
March 21, 2017 - Reports emerge about Ortega’s interest in NFL memorabilia
During the week of the Super Bowl, Ortega reportedly had multiple items signed by former players, according to Eric Edholm of Yahoo! Sports. These items included a jersey signed by Kurt Warner and a book signed by Emmitt Smith. Getting autographs is prohibited for credentialed media members.
Ortega was reportedly seen at sports memorabilia auctions near the NFL Experience during Super Bowl week auctioning off items he owned. Edholm said that when authorities executed the search warrant at his home, an entire room of NFL memorabilia was found.
Later in the day, Jay Glazer is on The Herd, and footage of the heist is shown.
March 23, 2017 - The jersey is returned to New England
The sage officially came to an end with the return of the jersey on Thursday, March 23.
“It was great to have both jerseys returned to Gillette Stadium today,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. I don’t know that any agency could have accomplished this independently, but collectively multiple agencies - both in the U.S. and in Mexico - worked together to achieve the goal of retrieving the stolen property.
“It is another example of the importance of teamwork and what can be accomplished when everyone works together. We appreciate the effort of everyone involved and look forward to returning these jerseys to Tom when he gets back to New England."
April 3, 2017 - Robert Kraft returns both jerseys to Tom Brady
We all thought it was finished, but the saga continued Monday. Patriots owner Robert Kraft returned both missing jerseys to their rightful owner.
They're back! Robert Kraft presents Tom Brady with the jerseys he wore in Super Bowl XLIX and Super Bowl LI. pic.twitter.com/0AsuqS1j3Z— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 3, 2017
April 5, 2017 - The jerseys were found with the help of a 19-year-old Patriots fan in Seattle
The jerseys would not have been found without the help of Dylan Wagner, a 19-year-old Patriots fan and memorabilia collector in Seattle. Wagner sold a jersey to Ortega in December 2016, and the two exchanged photos of their collections. Ortega’s collection prominently featured Brady’s Super Bowl XLIX jersey, which stood out to Wagner. His photos gave law enforcement the evidence needed to secure a search warrant.
And that’s that.