Author: Kevin Nelson

"Masterminds" Episode on Operation Bullpen on YouTube

BY KEVIN NELSON In 2006 the “Masterminds” TV series produced an episode on the Operation Bullpen case that you can now watch on Youtube. Well, excerpts from it anyhow. The excerpts were posted by a guy named “JoeMLM,” whose purpose is to call attention to the ongoing problem of forgeries in the memorabilia trade. Some of you may have seen the original program, but if you haven”t, this might be worth a look. The “Masterminds” docu-drama is entitled “Foul Ball”—the FBI”s code name for its investigation into Michael Jordan forgeries in Chicago, which was then followed by the Operation Bullpen investigation. It aired for the first time in December five years ago, right after my book on Bullpen came out. There”s a homemade quality to the posting on Youtube. It’s been trimmed and it”s choppy, and the actual “Masterminds” program that was broadcast around the country is far superior to what you will see here. On Youtube it begins with JoeMLM talking off-camera—apparently he wishes to keep his identity secret, thus he does not show his face—and he makes comments here and there, so be patient. The episode gets going after about a minute or so. It includes an on-camera interview with Wayne Bray, the “mastermind” of the $100 million Operation Bullpen rip-off, and recreates some of the things he did by using an actor who plays him. An actor...

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Q&A on Forgeries, Fakes and Corruption vs. Love

BY KEVIN NELSON  Recently I received an email from Stephen Andon, a PhD candidate in Communication at Florida State University, who is writing a dissertation on sports memorabilia. After having read Operation Bullpen and the blogging  I’m doing for Autograph Magazine and at my Bullpen website, he wanted to ask me a few questions about forgeries (such as this Babe Ruth fake, penned by Greg Marino) and corruption in the sports memorabilia industry. Here are excerpts from our discussion: Is it interesting to you that we keep finding forgeries today — even important pieces – such as pieces in the Baseball Hall of Fame? Can we simply attribute that to how widespread the forgery problem was up until Operation Bullpen? Kevin Nelson: I do find it interesting that forgery is just as prevalent now as it was in the late nineties when the FBI busted the original Bullpen gang. At the time federal officials estimated that 90 percent of all signed pieces sold on the Internet were fake. After a ton of criticism the feds changed their tune to say only 50 percent of autographs were fake. The truth is, nobody knows. But the number is, without doubt, substantial. Forgery remains a big problem. Now, I’m using the “forgery problem” in the past tense, but is it accurate to use the past tense? In other words, has the memorabilia...

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Instant Reaction to ‘Monsters’

BY KEVIN NELSON Oct. 13, 2010 One of the great things about the Internet is that you can get instantaneous feedback on your writing. So it is with Monsters Behind The Door, my piece on the anonymous threats and bullying used by forgers and counterfeiters that went up on Autograph Magazine’s site just a couple of days ago. Here are two emails I’ve received on it already: Nice job, Kevin. As you know, the stupidity and sometimes the threats come with the turf when you’re trying to reveal the truth. And this longer letter, from Travis Roste of JoeHeavyweight.com: Nice article. It’s obvious that the people who are willing participants in forgeries or the selling of forgeries are the ones who are harassing people like Chris Williams. I defend Chris in his videos, and then they start in on me. Some of the people selling the forgeries aren’t the forgers themselves, but they sell them because they think they are knowledgeable themselves, and they know just enough to be dangerous. There is a guy on eBay who sells fake 500 home run balls and other fake stuff because he believes that the cheap stuff he buys there is real. So when he flips it, he doesn’t have any problem selling a fake because it COULD be real. This guy just sold a signed Roy Campanella bat for $166 when...

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Monsters Behind the Door—The Power Struggle in Autographs Today

By Kevin Nelson For my book, Operation Bullpen: The Inside Story of the Biggest Forgery Ring in American History, I did an interview with ESPN, which I later posted on YouTube. When you post a video on YouTube and someone comments on it, the comment is then relayed to you in your email in-box. This was what popped into my in-box the other day: “I am a stupid buyer of forgeries, and your mother’s breasts are fake as well.” The email writer did not actually use the word “breasts,” but rather a euphemism for them that may be more appropriate for an HBO comedy routine than a magazine such as Autograph. Upon receiving this, I wondered to myself why, when people are trying to insult you, they always pick on your mother, not your father. In any case, another electronic raspberry arrived the next day:“Kevin Nelson and Tom Tresh look like a pair of refugee’s [sic] from the 100-pound bench press club.” And then, two days after that: “Operation Bullsh**t perhaps much more fitting?” In all, I received five equally charming and witty emails from this person, who did not identify himself although I feel quite confident he was a man. I do not believe a woman would use a crude description of the male member on her email address, as this fellow did. Nor, in my view, would...

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HBO Program on Forgeries on YouTube

BY KEVIN NELSON Sept. 3, 2010 Anyone 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...

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