FORGERY CASE LEADS TO WEPNER PLEA
The FBI has released details regarding the guilty plea entered by former boxer Chuck Wepner, who lost to Muhammad Ali in a heavyweight championship fight in 1975 and was using the prestige of that event and his career to sell forged Ali autographs. The files were sealed until recently, but a press release now reveals that Wepner entered a guilty plea in May for conspiring to commit mail fraud. He admitted to selling memorabilia forged by John Olson, who pled guilty in 2003 and received three years probation, those sales taking place from June 1996 through March 2002.
Among the items that were sold were Champions Forever boxing posters (gold ink versions are forged). The Champions Forever forgeries were exposed in 1996 by Sports Collectors Digest, which quoted Wepner as claiming the forgeries were purchased from another party. "John (Olson) is a good kid," Wepner said in that 1996 story. "He buys things in good faith and sometimes he gets stuck." Wepner is scheduled to enter his plea and receive his sentencing on Oct. 24 in San Diego. Wepner and Olson say most of their forgeries were sold through Brian Ginsberg, who was indicted recently in San Diego on 13 counts related to the sale of forged sports and celebrity memorabilia. Ginsberg entered a not guilty plea and has a hearing set for Sept. 12. Olson was quoted in an FBI press release as saying Ginsberg paid him and Wepner about $117,000 for forged memorabilia.
In a related case, Michael De Sola of Madison Sports pled guilty in March 2004 to mail fraud, again related to forged autographs, often Ali, and again in a case sealed until recently. De Sola was sentenced to three years probation and a $1,000 fine.