Fort Worth

Elite sneaker trade goes wrong for North Texas man

The hobby sounds innocuous enough: Post a pair of sneakers online, then trade or sell for another pair — maybe rare sneakers, which can fetch upwards of $1,000.

But a sneaker trade left one North Texas man facing felony charges.

The elite sneaker trading market is intricate and detailed. The traders, mostly young males, have their own way of communicating. Each has an extensive knowledge of all things sneaker and is willing to spend large sums of time and money building a collection.

“It’s a great feeling [to wear elite sneakers], you feel great about them. I know I worked hard for these shoes and I got them,” sneaker fanatic Ryan Perez of Fort Worth said.

Nike Air Jordans are the most common shoe in the sneaker trading world but Yeezys, by Kanye West, can be worth thousands.

Sneaker groups are common nationally and worldwide, although most trading is done in local settings. DFW Sneaker Heads, a Facebook group dedicated to buying, selling and trading rare shoes, has more than 18,000 members.

In 2014, The New York Times reported that 18-year-old Jonathon Rodriguez of New York had been offered $98,000 in cash for his Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Red October” sneakers signed by Kanye West, but turned it down. The teen told the Times he is a huge West fan and would only sell the sneakers if he needed to or if he were offered life-changing money.

Perez, 23, thought he had found a great deal on a pair of Adidas Yeezy 350s earlier this year, but what he found instead was trouble.

He was ecstatic when he traded four Nike Air Jordans for the 350s, which usually sell for more than $1,000 a pair. He agreed to the deal with Davis Dorries, 18, on Facebook and they met up and swapped.

Before he ever wore the shoes, Perez started posting pictures on Facebook and friends started telling him they looked like fakes. He started messaging Dorries to meet and swap back, but he was blocked.

Dorries could not be reached for comment.

Perez said Dorries planned a trade with one of Perez’s friends to sell the Air Jordans and Perez showed up. He confronted Dorries and asked him to give him his shoes back, which Dorries did. Two days later Dorries filed a police report stating that he felt threatened and was robbed by Perez.

Fort Worth police arrested Perez, charged him with robbery and confiscated the Air Jordans but did not take the Yeezys. Perez is trying to get the charges dropped.

Perez said he showed the shoes to Pound for Pound, a Dallas-based store that checks for authenticity, and was told they are counterfeit.

Mary Perez, Ryan’s mother, said Wednesday they hired a lawyer to press charges against Dorries for selling counterfeit shoes and for filing a false police report.

Tips for safely buying, trading, selling

Research beforehand

Neil Sobol, associate professor at the Texas A&M University School of Law, recommended making sure to check the authenticity of both the product and the exchanger. Compare the images and price with the retail product. Google the name of the person to see if anyone has made a complaint online.

Ask for authenticity confirmation

Be aware that just because the source confirms authenticity online doesn’t mean it’s true, Sobol said. They may have evidence of authenticity online but that may not be the case. “Be careful, get as many pictures as you can. Make sure they tag the photos with their name, the date and hopefully you’ll be able to tell that they’re real before the exchange,” Perez said.

Be cautious making the exchange

Always meet during the day and bring a friend. Bring your phone and tell others where you are going. Mary Perez said from now on she won’t let her son go to exchanges alone.

Fort Worth police recommend buyers/sellers to meet in public places or police stations. Fort Worth, Bedford, Haltom City, Benbrook and Flower Mound police departments are among those in the area with Safe Trade stations where you can exchange products. Check with your local police department.

Bring an expert

If possible, Sobol says to bring an expert to check authenticity. Lt. Mike Igl of the Major Crimes Unit in Dallas said that most of the time the verification of authenticity can’t be made until the product is in hand. “Some of the counterfeiters out there are very, very good and it’s even hard to tell even for those who have been trained,” Igl said.

What to do if you suspect it’s a fake

If you believe you received a counterfeit product, file a police report. Never take the burden on yourself — let the police investigate, both Igl and Sobol said. They and Perez both agree that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

“The business is nice, it allows people to collect these types of things,” Sobol said. “But there’s dangers with it and you always want to be alert of those risks.”

Azia Branson: 817-390-7547, @aziabranson