Now that we have our own forum from which to speak I feel it prudent to alert the autograph collecting community to an unfortunate beat that we took a while back buying some forged autographs. We run a considerable amount of advertising on Craigslist and other free to post community sites trying to buy collections. We were contacted by a man who claimed to be dying of cancer and in very poor health. He said he was an ex-marine and had worked security in Las Vegas during the 1990s and had a substantial collection of in person autographs that he has acquired while working the detail for these men. Needless to say we were intrigued and highly skeptical as we usually are of leads that are coming to us via Craigslist.
We were invited to meet halfway in south New Jersey on airport rd at Perkins. A short bald man with a jeep meets us in front and says his name is John. He tells me the above story regarding his health and tells me he has grown children who are stealing his collection as he has been sitting in hospitals riddled with cancer. He say he just got out and needed some money so he smuggled some things out from the collection.
He brings out a photo album and begins telling me stories about all of the famous people he is pictured with. Polaroid after polaroid of him with Muhammad Ali, Sonny Liston and many many other sports icons. He explains how he was the supervisor of their security detail. He has candid photographs eating dinner with tons of A list (19990s) celebrities. He has photos of himself kissing Actress Michelle Rodriguez. Says they dated she smokes TONS of weed and they broke up because she likes women. I ask if it is okay if I take some proof photos of his album and he says no problem. I snap a couple shots and we negotiate a price for several reproduction hand signed ALI/FOREMAN ALI/LISTON ALI/FRAZIER photographs, flyers and some Holland furnace company training passes from the camp of Joe Louis.
Now even with the story and all the photos we have a responsibility to our customers to perform due diligence before selling anything. We contacted Steve Jackson of http://www.sjauthentications.com/ who is (according to some sources) the worlds leading authority on Muhammad Ali, his opponents and their respective signatures. Steve has a quick opinion service so we submitted our autographs and waited for a response. The next day Steve calls us and explains that according to all of the technical points that lead him to no doubt that these signatures were all forged. I tell him the story and when I get to the point where I say I have proof photographs; he asked me to send them to him because if the guy was in a lot of pictures with Ali he could tell me when and where they were.
He mentions operation bullpen to me and tells me to Google it. I send off the email and immediately get a call back.
Steve Jackson “Hey the guy in these photographs is he definitely the guy who sold you the fakes?”
Steve Jackson “Do you know who that guy is?”
Steve Jackson “That is a photograph of John Olson from Operation Bullpen”
At this point I realized that I had been conned by a master con-man. Steve contacted Ali’s agent and asked for copies of the fakes which I sent over to him. He said Ali’s agent would contact the FBI. I have since seen more of this reproduction flyers sold off dual signed from locations such as Cape May, Barnegat, Absecon. Some of their auction listings SHOWED PICTURES OF JOHN OLSON as their proof pictures as well. It was apparent that he is running this scam all over south NJ. I have posted JOHN OLSON from operation bullpens photo in this blog so that you will know what he looks like. Mind you he is bald now and (maybe) in poor health. He drives a green Jeep/SUV older model. His location is always in the South Jersey area. Perfect example of why you have to take any story with a grain of salt and never forgo doing proper homework.