MANHATTAN (CN) – A handwriting expert sued Bryant Gumbel and HBO, claiming they defamed him on Gumbel’s show, “Real Sports,” by accusing him of selling fake certificates of authentication to a counterfeit sports memorabilia ring. In fact, Donald Frangipani says, he helped the FBI break up the ring, which forged his signature on certificates, and Gumbel and HBO relied on the word of a felon to defame him.
In his federal claim, Frangipani says he has more than 40 years experience as a forensic document examiner and handwriting analyst. He claims Gumbel and HBO defamed him on the Jan. 17, 2006 edition of “Real Sports,” in a feature called “Forger’s Paradise,” which has been rebroadcast repeatedly.
Frangipani claims he helped the FBI break up a multimillion-dollar sports memorabilia forgery ring, in the course of which the FBI discovered, and showed him, that the ring had forged Frangipani’s signature and his certificates of authenticity. This FBI operation, in the late 1990s, was called “Operation Bullpen,” Frangipani says.
He claims the ring was led by the “Marino Family,” and that one of its distributors was Sheldon Jaffe. “Facing long prison sentenced for federal fraud charges and filing false income tax returns, Jaffe pled guilty and received a lesser sentence,” the complaint states.
He claims that to film its “Forger’s Paradise” segment, HBO and Gumbel “relied upon information provided by Jaffe, a convicted felon who is very hostile to Frangipani.”
He demands $5 million damages for libel and other charges. He is represented by Salvatore Strazzullo.