Preview: Never Before Seen Images from Operation Bullpen Forgery Ring

Five years after its publication, Operation Bullpen, the book and the case, continues to cause comment among collectors.

Busted 13 years ago, a sophisticated group of forgers led by Greg Marino, had produced at least one million phony autographs that made their way into collections, offices and sports memorabilia stores across North America and beyond.

Still more of the confiscated loot.

Confiscated fake autographs from Operation Bullpen raids.

All told, the Bureau says it busted up 18 forgery rings, obtained more than 60 charges and convictions, and seized tens of thousands of forgeries and $5 million in illegal cash and goods in its investigations over the years.

While many of the fake autographs were rounded up by the FBI during its raids, there is little doubt that thousands upon thousands remain in the hands of unsuspecting owners.  Others are sold quietly through local auction companies, flea markets and pushed through charity auctions.  The forgers may have been arrested, done their time behind bars and been released, but their work is still being bought and sold.

Michael Jordan litho forgery

Michael Jordan was, and is, a favorite of collectors. And forgers, as well.

Starting Friday and continuing twice a week for the next two weeks, Kevin Nelson, the author of Operation Bullpen, will provide an exclusive series of articles on the case, the staggering numbers of fakes and will show us images that no collectors have ever seen—until now.

We’ll see stacks of phony Babe Ruth cut signatures, a virtual mountain of forged baseballs, fake framed memorabilia, even an aged box of Babe Ruth underwear containing a fake autograph of the Bambino.

According to the FBI, the forgers and their associates defrauded American consumers of $100 million by selling them things that people thought were legitimately signed by Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods and other superstars but were in fact, fake.