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Wednesday, July 20, 2005
FBI giving memorabilia away to charity

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- The FBI has spent five years tracking down baseball bats, balls, jerseys and other memorabilia with phony signatures of famous athletes. Now, the agency is giving the collectibles to charity -- minus the fake autographs.

"We've obliterated the forged signatures," said Jan Caldwell, an FBI spokeswoman. "They've been marked out in various ways."

Authorities will donate "a warehouse full" of goodies to San Diego-area charities Thursday, said Caldwell, who didn't have a precise inventory. Pro football Hall of Famer Lance Alworth and representatives of Major League Baseball and Internet auctioneer EBay Inc., all of whom assisted in the investigation, will participate.

It marks the end of Operation Bullpen, which produced dozens of convictions and shut down several counterfeit trading card rings, according to the FBI. One ring made thousands of fake trading cards of former baseball slugger Mark McGwire, former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway and others, which were later sold at collector shows.

The donations include bats, mitts, balls and other items that were treated to remove the fake signatures, Caldwell said.

The phony trading cards are not part of the giveaway.