FBI found Arnold Palmer’s Masters green jacket on sale in Chicago as it uncovered $5.6M theft

Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player after the ceremonial first tee before the Masters golf tournament in 2016. Inset: Richard Globensky pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing several green Masters jackets from Augusta National Golf Club.

AP file with inset photo by Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The FBI learned in 2022 that golf great Arnold Palmer’s Masters Tournament jacket was for sale in Lincoln Park, a discovery that eventually helped uncover a multimillion-dollar theft from Augusta National Golf Club, court records revealed Wednesday.

Those details became known after Richard Globensky, 39, of Georgia admitted in court that he stole Palmer’s jacket and other memorabilia in a scheme that netted him $5.6 million and lasted more than a decade.

An unidentified broker who tried to help sell Palmer’s jacket in 2022 said the owner would part with it for $4.2 million, records show. That broker later settled for $3.6 million — while the FBI watched.

Globensky pleaded guilty to one criminal charge Wednesday in the 12th-floor courtroom of U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. He was initially charged here last month, but in a barebones document that revealed hardly any details about the accusations against him.

Now it’s known that the investigation involved a secret cooperating source, recorded phone calls, and one of the most storied names in sports history. Palmer won the Masters Tournament, hosted by Augusta National Golf Club, in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964. Each time, he was awarded the same jacket.

The club awards the tournament’s winner a green jacket each year that is otherwise made available only to club members. After a year has passed, the winners are required to return the jackets to the club.

Palmer’s jacket featured a white nameplate with “Arnold Palmer” written on it. It had a patch from the tailor, Hart Schaffner & Marx, along with another tag listing the date the jacket was made: “2-19-58.”

A photo depicting Arnold Palmer receiving his Masters Tournament jacket from Jack Nicklaus in 1964. Federal authorities have circled the white nameplate and tailor’s patch that match the jacket found in Lincoln Park.

U.S. District Court records

Though court records seem to identify the Lincoln Park collector who had the jacket in 2022, that person has not been criminally charged. The Chicago Sun-Times attempted to call the collector, but the person who answered the phone claimed a reporter had the wrong number.

Palmer’s jacket is believed to have been stolen in 2012, according to court records. The Augusta National Golf Club earlier tried to preserve it for its historic significance. It sent the jacket out to a local dry cleaner in 2008 to be cleaned and treated.

The club then placed the jacket in a large archive vault. But that vault was renovated in 2012, records show. All items inside were temporarily moved. When they were returned, Palmer’s jacket was missing.

It also appeared the jacket was stolen — and not simply misplaced. During the move, all items were placed in boxes numbered “1 of 10,” “2 of 10” and so on, using a fine point marker, records show. But during a later inventory, it was discovered the labels had been changed to “1 of 9” through “9 of 9” with a thick black marker.

The club didn’t tell law enforcement the jacket was missing until 2018, records show. Rather, it conducted an internal investigation that was inconclusive.

Then, in January 2022, a member of Augusta National Golf Club contacted a club executive to report someone trying to broker the sale of Palmer’s jacket in Chicago. The broker told the club member the jacket’s owner would be willing to sell it for around $4.2 million.

The club member had previous experience with an FBI agent in Chicago, though. The member told the club executive to contact the agent, who then directed the club member to keep negotiating the sale.

A photo of the interior patch of the jacket found in Lincoln Park that purportedly belonged to Arnold Palmer.

U.S. District Court records

Photos sent to the club member by the broker reveal the jacket in question had the “Arnold Palmer” nameplate and a Hart Schaffner & Marx label. It even had a dry-cleaning tag that appeared to contain the name of the golf club employee responsible for picking it up from the cleaners in 2008.

Another tag on the jacket contained the date “2-19-58.” An Augusta National Golf Club archivist positively identified the jacket based on the photos, records show.

During a series of recorded phone calls between the club member and the broker, the club member insisted on learning the identity of the actual seller, court records show. In response, the club member received a link to an online article profiling the Lincoln Park collector.

The club member ultimately agreed to buy the jacket for $3.6 million.

“It’s the most money, believe it or not, that I will ever have spent on a single item,” the club member told the broker in a recorded phone call. “I’d really like to be there just to make sure, you know, it’s totally what we’re expecting and, you know, as much as I trust you … I’d rather see it with my own eyes.”

That inspection of the jacket was set to take place March 31, 2022, at the collector’s Lincoln Park home, records show. The FBI wound up recovering the jacket there, according to Joseph Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago.

Richard Globensky, of Georgia, walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Wednesday after pleading guilty to transporting stolen golf merchandise and memorabilia from the Augusta National Golf Club.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The investigation continued, Fitzpatrick said, eventually leading the feds to Globensky, who once worked as a warehouse assistant for Augusta National Golf Club. In court Wednesday, Globensky admitted he also stole jackets that belonged to Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.

Globensky now faces a maximum of 10 years behind bars. However, federal guidelines only call for a sentence of up to 2 ½ years in prison. He is set to be sentenced Oct. 29 and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Globensky admitted he stole “large quantities” of merchandise from the club’s warehouse between 2009 and 2022 — including T-shirts, jackets, hats, flags, chairs, watches and mugs.

The historic memorabilia he stole also included tournament programs from 1934 and 1935, tickets from the 1930s, tournament records from 1942, a 2009 commemorative putter, an Augusta National unissued share of stock from 1932 signed by founding member Fielding Wallace, and documents and letters written and signed by golf pioneer Bobby Jones.

Globensky acknowledged he is responsible for a loss to Augusta National of about $3.4 million, according to his plea deal.

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