A New England Patriots fan from Seattle is being credited with a tip that helped authorities recover Tom Brady's stolen Super Bowl jerseys.
Dylan Wagner, 19, is a sports memorabilia collector. He said he made the discovery online and helped tip off federal agents about who had Brady's jerseys from his Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seattle Seahawks and Super Bowl LI victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Martin Mauricio Ortega, a former executive of a tabloid newspaper in Mexico City, is suspected of stealing the jerseys. He was a working journalist at Super Bowl LI but spent the week collecting selfies and autographs from football greats and boasting to colleagues that he was there as a fan.
Wagner says he met Ortega online last December through eBay while selling him jersey once belonging to former Seahawk and Patriot Deion Branch.
"(Ortega) sent me 27 photos of his entire collection," Wagner said. "And front and center of his collection is the Tom Brady Super Bowl XLIX jersey. A red flag goes up like 'How did the Patriots allow this jersey to get to Mexico, of all places? Why isn't it in the (Pro Football) Hall of Fame or the Patriots Hall of Fame or in Tom Brady's house?"
With no reports of that jersey being stolen, Wagner let it go but held on to Ortega's information. He shared the photos with some of his friends including Christopher Arone, a fellow collector who is also an ATF special agent.
When reports started surfacing about Brady's Super Bowl LI jersey being stolen, Wagner said Arone sent him a link to an ESPN article that mentioned it was not the first time Brady had a Super Bowl jersey stolen.
That's when Wagner put it all together. He said he sent Arone all the information he had on Ortega. He also filed a police report and tried reaching out to the NFL. He said he then spoke to a public relations staffer at with the Patriots.
"I don't think that they necessarily took me seriously in the whole case considering I'm a 19-year-old kid from Seattle. What information do I have to offer?" Wagner said. "But no hard feelings. I'm sure they got overwhelmed with tips and stuff like that that ended up being dead ends."
Wagner persisted. He reached out to the Texas Rangers, knowing they had also been asked to help in the investigation. An hour later, they called him back and were able to verify Wagner's information lead was legitimate.
The FBI eventually contacted Wagner and began working with him.
"I was able to provide email, IP address, two physical addresses, his American and Mexican name because some emails popped up as Martin Ortega and some emails popped up as Mauricio Ortega," Wagner said.
With the photos, along with video allegedly showing Ortega leaving the Patriots locker room with something tucked under his arm, the FBI and Mexican police had enough evidence to obtain a search warrant for Ortega's home. They recovered the jerseys March 12. A helmet belonging to a Denver Broncos player was also discovered, according to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.
The Patriots announced the recovery of Brady's jerseys on Wagner's birthday.
"Probably one of the best birthday presents anybody can ask for when you help your hero and essentially, in a way, be their hero in getting them their jerseys back," Wagner said.
Ortega has not yet been charged.
The ATF and FBI would not comment on the story, WBZ-TV in Boston reported.
The Asssociated Press contributed to this report.