Bullpen & More, by Kevin Nelson

Archive for September 2010

The Paul Revere of Forgeries

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BY KEVIN NELSON Sept. 23,2010 I know what motivates forgers, counterfeit distributors, and crooked authenticators: money. And ego, of course. But mainly money, lots of easy money.

But what motivates the people who try to expose the forgers? I was thinking about this while watching Chris Williams’s latest Youtube video on the rash of Mickey Mantle forgeries now flooding eBay. I have written about Williams in the past, and frequently exchange emails with him, and I continue to be amazed by the passion he brings to his fight to clean up the hobby.

The forgers also have lots of passion—making money will do that for you. But Williams doesn’t make money when he posts on Youtube as tomtresh2; he’s doing it because he loves collecting, loves autographs of the genuine kind, and positively hates the crooks and scam artists who peddle bad stuff to the many apparently clueless eBay buyers and sellers.

Williams has been at this for years—shining a light on the hobby’s shadiest operators despite threats and insults from them. Yet many of these operators remain in business and if they are no longer in business, others who are equally shady and corrupt have taken their place. Williams is a Paul Revere of the autography hobby, warning us about the scoundrels in our midst, and he deserves to be heard.

Kevin Nelson, author of Operation Bullpen: The Inside Story of the Biggest Forgery Scam in American History, blogs at www.operationbullpen.com.

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Written by Kevin Nelson

September 23, 2010 at 6:47 pm

HBO Program on Forgeries on Youtube

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BY KEVIN NELSON Sept. 3, 2010 Anyone who is interested in forgeries and fake memorabilia—and that means virtually all collectors—needs to go right now to YouTube and watch the famous HBO “Real Sports” program on Operation Bullpen and the crooked authentication racket. I wrote a book on the case and I had never seen this program until today.

Apparently it was on Youtube for a while, and then it was taken down. My guess is that the reason for this was the $5 million 2008 Donald Frangipani lawsuit against HBO that claimed the cable network defamed him in its coverage. A judge dismissed the case in March, and now the video is back on.

Frangipani, one of the dubious “experts” who authenticated thousands of fake pieces in the $100 million Bullpen ring, makes an appearance in the program. In a sting set up by the journalists, he is shown giving his stamp of approval to several pieces of fake memorabilia. Other real-life characters in the Operation Bullpen saga also appear, notably the forger Greg Marino, who is shown in FBI undercover video, and FBI Special Agent Tim Fitzsimmons, who oversaw the three-year federal investigation that brought down the ring.

Even Dan Marino—one of the countless superstars forged by Greg Marino (no relation)—comes on camera to explain that yes, virtually all the signed Dan Marino items being sold on the Internet are bogus. The key player in the program is a man whose face is cloaked in shadow and is identified only as “Eddie,” in order to protect his identity. It’s no secret that Eddie is Shelly Jaffe, a counterfeit memorabilia distributor who sold mountains of fake stuff in the ring, was busted by the FBI, and went to prison for six months for his crimes.

Jaffe is interviewed in his upstairs study in his southern California home. I know this because I have sat in that study myself, interviewing Jaffe, although he spoke on the record with me. Always a quotable fellow, he gets off some good lines, including this one referring to the remarkable gifts of Greg Marino, “If God had a signature, he probably could’ve done that too.”

“Forger’s Paradise,” produced by Joe Perskie and Andrew Bennett and edited by Tres Driscoll, with reporting by Armen Keteyian, is an extraordinary piece of television journalism. Must-see for every collector and everyone in the collecting industry.