FOURTH IN A SERIES
Along with the members of the Operation Bullpen forgery ring, a counterfeit card group doing brisk business from California also bit the dust in October of 1999.
Kevin Nelson’s book "Operation Bullpen" weaves several stories and personalities into a 300-page tale of deception. While the nation’s largest forgery scam was being broken up, a productive and equally disturbing counterfeit rookie card ring was pushing thousands of fakes into the hobby.
SportsCollectorsDaily has obtained an advance copy of the book and this is the fourth excerpt we’re publishing this week.
One of the biggest one-day takedowns in FBI history took place early Wednesday morning, October 13, 1999 with teams of FBI and IRS agents knocking on the doors of counterfeit memorabilia dealers and forgers around Southern California. (Lead FBI agents) Fitzsimmons and McKinney decided to first cover the home turf before rolling out the searches in the other states, their thinking being that if the local guys decided to cooperate, the FBI could have them call their associates back East and get recorded admissions from them. Then federal agents in the other states could knock on some doors themselves.
(Wayne) Bray (who had begun working with the Bureau) received a day-long FBI escort for security reasons. No one could anticipate how the other memorabilia boys would react upon learning that the man who had most zealously enforced the code of silence was the one who had smashed it to pieces. Bray made calls for the FBI as the raids were rolling out, phoning guys who were waffling about whether or not to believe what the agents were telling them. He says yeah, believe it, the party’s over. Another thing he did was trap (Barry) Goldberg.
As promised, the smart New York-style operator with the salt and pepper hair showed up that morning at W.W. Sports Cards (Bray’s business) with a vehicle full of counterfeit cards, thinking he was about to land a sweetheart of a deal. Instead all he got was heartache. He and Bray brought the boxes upstairs and they were talking in the shop when they heard some noise on the steps outside. A knock on the door followed, and Wayne answered it. Gathered on the walkway was a group of agents in windbreakers and flak jackets.
"These guys are the FBI," Bray told the stunned Goldberg. "You better listen to what they have to say because you’re screwed."
On take-down day, Goldberg would admit nothing until he first spoke to an attorney. After tough negotiations with the government, he eventually agreed to cooperate and put on a wire to get admissions from his partner in the scheme, Hank Benner.
Once Goldberg jammed up Benner on tape, the FBI raided Benner’s house in El Segundo, and Benner gave up the name of the printer: Vincent Ferrucio of Ferrucio and Associates, a Gardenia printing company. With his employees working after hours, Ferrucio and Associates had produced tens of thousands of the near-perfect counterfeit McGwire, Sosa, Gwynn, elway and Marino (rookie) cards.
Ferrucio spent four months in prison, Goldberg nine months and Benner a year and three months.