Berra once said, "If people don't want to come out to
the ball park, nobody's going to stop them." When it
comes to ball park rip offs, though, you can bet that the
FBI is going to try to stop them.
been tempted to buy a Mark McGwire autographed baseball?
not alone. The world of autographed sports and celebrity memorabilia
is huge --a $1 billion a year industry. Unfortunately, at
least half of the items that are sold are forgeries, even
many that come with certificates of authenticity...which are
also forged. Over half!
good reason to hesitate before taking advantage of that once-in-a-lifetime
deal you think you're getting, whether it's an autographed
baseball, bat, trading card, poster, hat, helmet, or sports
in the mid 1990s, FBI agents in Chicago started investigating
what they thought was a local case of forged autographs of
Chicago sports stars. But it turned out not to be local at
all: arrests were made in 5 states before "Operation
Foul Ball" was over.
case led to Operation Bullpen, part 1: a two-year undercover
operation that led to 26 convictions (to date) and the recovery,
in 5 different states, of $500,000 in cash and some $10 million
worth of forged memorabilia. One of the criminals had joked,
"Mickey Mantle still has one arm out of the grave to
Bullpen, part 2, recently concluded, with strong assists from
IRS, celebrities, and major businesses. It targeted fake sports
and celebrity autographs, many marketed through e-Bay and
memorabilia dealers -- and involved investigations in 10 different
FBI field offices. Sixteen convictions (so far). And many
innings left in the game.
you see that irresistible autograph of Red Sox Manny Ramirez...
Yankee Jason Giambi...Marlin Ivan Rodriguez... or Cub Sammy
Sosa.... Well, you just might want to step back from the plate
for a minute... to keep from striking out.