NEW YORK, June 27 (UPI) -- HBO relied almost entirely on the statements of a distributor of fake sports memorabilia for its "Forger's Paradise" report, a lawsuit filed in New York said.
New York handwriting expert Donald Frangipani, who specializes in autographed sports memorabilia, is suing the cable television network for incorrectly linking him to a forgery ring, thereby damaging his business and reputation.
Attorney Salvatore Strazzullo filed a $5 million lawsuit against HBO and "Real Sports" host Bryant Gumbel on Frangipani's behalf in Manhattan federal court this week.
Frangipani's lawsuit accused the series of being "grossly" irresponsible and employing "biased" reporting in its "Real Sports" segment "Forger's Paradise," in which viewers reportedly were told Frangipani was the ring's "authenticator of choice."
The complaint said HBO "relied almost entirely on statements made by Sheldon Jaffe, an admitted distributor of fake sports memorabilia, and a convicted felon snared by Operation Bullpen," the investigation into an alleged fraudulent sports memorabilia enterprise.
The lawsuit also said HBO acted irresponsibly by relying on statements made by FBI agent Tim Fitzsimmons six years earlier.
"These statements were made prior to the investigation being complete, and which turned out to be completely incorrect," a summary of the court documents said. "Frangipani was never indicted or accused of any wrongdoing. Frangipani was in fact an innocent victim of the forgery ring, as the forgery ring was forging Frangipani's certificates of authenticity. Had the criminal cases against Jaffe and the Marino family and its distributors gone to trial, Frangipani would have been a witness for the FBI."