In this Feb. 1, 2015, file photo, New England Patriots Tom Brady (12) celebrates during the NFL Super Bowl against Seattle. AP NEWSWIRE

In this Feb. 1, 2015, file photo, New England Patriots Tom Brady (12) celebrates during the NFL Super Bowl against Seattle. AP NEWSWIRE

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican media executive suspected of stealing Tom Brady’s jersey went to the Super Bowl as a working journalist but spent the week collecting selfies and autographs from football greats and boasting to colleagues that he was there as a fan.

Mexican journalists who were in Houston for the game and interacted with Martin Mauricio Ortega, former director of the tabloid La Prensa, told The Associated Press that he brought multiple NFL memorabilia items, including a Kurt Warner jersey he hoped to sell to the former quarterback for thousands of dollars.

“When I met him he was carrying a football helmet and he was bragging about having the signatures of former Super Bowl MVPs, and he was a little disappointed that Marshall Faulk refused to sign it,” said Ariel Velazquez, who covered the game for the Mexican daily El Universal. “He also said that he was not there to work: ‘There are people here to do that.’”

Brady’s jersey went missing from the Patriots’ locker room after the game, and set off an investigation that stretched from Boston to the border. Working with U.S. investigators, Mexican authorities obtained a search warrant and recovered the jersey March 12, along with another Brady jersey that disappeared after the 2015 Super Bowl. A helmet belonging to a Denver Broncos player was also discovered, according to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy.

Broncos spokesman Patrick Smyth said the team was in touch with NFL security because the helmet may belong to Von Miller, MVP at the 2016 Super Bowl. Ortega may have tried to sell it: A memorabilia dealer told the AP Tuesday that Ortega once asked him how much the helmet would be worth.

A Mexican government official confirmed that the warrant targeted Ortega and the search was at his home. Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, the official said an agreement was reached for an unspecified victim in the U.S. not to press charges in exchange for the jersey’s return.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many Super Bowls Ortega attended, but the NFL said they found that he was credentialed at least as far back as 2005. A credentialed member of the media has access to prominent athletes and latitude to enter behind-the-scenes places in a stadium. Ethics policies at news organizations, credential guidelines and professional standards of conduct usually prohibit actions such as seeking autographs while on the job. But it does happen.

The winning team’s locker room after a Super Bowl is a loud, crowded place, filled with dozens of excited, celebrating players — sometimes passing around the Lombardi Trophy they just earned — along with coaches, various other team employees and members of the media.

Mostly, a player will stand or sit in front of his locker while being interviewed by what could be a dozen or more reporters at a time, a scene replicated in several spots around the room. Sometimes a player will step away for several minutes to go take a shower, leaving his belongings unguarded.

Ortega was also seen at Super Bowl auctions during the week of the big game. Mexican media have reported that Ortega’s basement was full of NFL and other sports memorabilia.

Brian Drent, president and CEO of Mile High Card Company, an auctioneer of fine sports memorabilia in Colorado, said Ortega told him last year that he had Miller’s Super Bowl helmet.

He said Ortega had purchased a Joe Montana game-worn jersey for more than $20,000 and flew from Mexico to Denver to pick it up. As they talked, Drent said, Ortega told him at this time he wanted to auction off a Patrick Ewing game-worn jersey and Jerry Rice game-used cleats. Then he brought up the helmet.

“He asked me what I thought Von Miller’s helmet from Super Bowl 50 would be worth. I said, ‘That’s a great piece. But I’m not sure of its value,’” Drent said. “He said, ‘Well, I have it.’”

“I asked him, ‘How did you get it?’ And he kind of shrugged off the question.”

Drent said Ortega never offered to auction or sell the helmet and that the two never spoke again, although Ortega did try to get hold of him on Facebook.

Ortega also used his Super Bowl media access to take selfies with players, including at least one with Brady that he showed to Palafox.

“I told him that I was one of the first ones to talk to Brady after the game, and he said that he had it better and showed me a selfie with Brady,” Palafox said. “I would say I was shocked to see it, but after everything that I saw that week that was just the icing on the cake.”


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