The 1990s FBI investigation known as Operation Bullpen is becoming an ESPN 30 for 30 film.
A trailer has been released promoting the 22-minute film, which includes interviews with Greg Marino, the master forger who produced thousands of phony autographs that were at the heart of the case, and the two FBI agents who worked to bring down the operation.
While most people were following Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa trying to break Roger Maris’ single season home run record, the FBI had their sights on another record – chasing $100,000,000 of memorabilia with fake signatures on them. With the help of some Major League Baseball superstars, the FBI attempted to infiltrate the world of the greatest counterfeiter they had ever seen.
While he wasn’t the business brains behind the forgery ring, Marino was the man who made the machine run by perfectly forging the autographs of first McGwire and Sosa in 1998, and then helping it grow into a nationwide counterfeit operation, implicating more than 50 people. Using hidden cameras, undercover agents and wiretaps, The Counterfeiter will take viewers inside the undercover operation that brought in the largest dollar figure in U.S. history.
The Operation Bullpen investigation became a book written by Kevin Nelson, who chronicled the forgery ring, the investigation and the impact on the sports memorabilia hobby.
The Counterfeiter captures the story from the law enforcement agent’s side as well as the men running the phony autograph operation, which cranked out more than one million bogus items and generated a record-breaking $100 million in total, according to the FBI.
In 2000, following a three-year FBI investigation, Marino and his brother John were each sentenced to nearly 3 1/2 years in prison. The Marinos also forfeited property in southern California, a boat, a $96,000 down payment on a second boat and over $175,000 in cash and a bank account.
The film debuts at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival this month and is expected to air as ESPN 30 for 30 Short later this year. It’s directed by Brian Biegel, who wrote Miracle Ball, a book about the search for Bobby Thomson’s 1951 pennant-winning home run ball and served as executive producer for the Smithsonian Channel’s Sports Detectives series.
If you can’t see the preview below, click here.