The rumors circulating autograph hobby are true. Since 2008, the New York Office of the FBI has been investigating Florida-based autograph and memorabilia gallery chain American Royal Arts and its owner, Jerry Gladstone, over the suspected trafficking in rock and roll forgeries. According to marketing claims by Gladstone, American Royal Arts was the world's largest seller of signed music memorabilia, specializing autographs of the Beatles, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Eagles and other in-demand rock bands and artists.
The FBI typically doesn't publicly acknowledge or discuss an open investigation unless and until they issue arrest warrants. No arrest warrants have been issued that I'm aware of, and it's always possible that none will be. Nothing I'm discussing here has come directly from the FBI. Everything comes from our own investigation and interviews.
The FBI's more than 30 month investigation has grown to include ARA associates and authenticators, including forensic document examiners Christopher Morales and E'lyn Bryan, ARA's memorabilia suppliers, and others from Florida to Hawaii.
The FBI raided American Royal Arts' headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., in late February, 2010, and around the same time served document subpoenas on Christopher Morales in Falls Church, Va., where he maintains his office. We believe that E'Lyn Bryan, also of Boca Raton, was served with document subpoenas around that time.
On August 14, ARA filed an Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors, which is a filing in Florida courts similar to a Chapter 7 filing in Federal Bankruptcy Court. In a related deposition on Sept. 7, ARA executive Agnes Palmer reportedly testified that a result of the FBI's subpoena, approximately 90-percent of ARA's autograph inventory was either seized by the FBI, ordered held under subpoena and stored at their headquarters, or determined by ARA to be unsalable.
According to Gladstone over several phone conversations with me—one with historical autograph dealer John Reznikoff serving as "referee"—ARA purchased most of their rock autographs from Heroes and Legends in Calif., owned by Myron Ross; Forever Legends in Calif., owned by Maria Brockway; Autograph Central in Ill., owned by Bryan Slaven; and Gallery of Dreams in Calif., owned by Bruce Hall. Until late 2009, Christopher Morales was listed on Gallery of Dreams' Executive Profiles Web page as their authenticator.
Brockway and Slaven are convicted felons.
We have also found evidence linking Rock Star Gallery in Phoenix, Ariz., as a source of ARA's autographed items.
According to Gladstone, Gallery of Dreams was the source of the forged autographed guitars, and altered rock artist signing photos that ARA used to sell them that were the subject of ABC News 20/20 and Inside Edition television reports in late 2009.
I received a surprise phone call from Gladstone last May, in which he thanked me for discovering the photoshopped signing photos and said that he had discovered he was a victim of fraud by his suppliers, claiming they sold him forgeries without his knowledge.
Common sense and Gladstone's aggressive actions over the years against Frank Caiazzo, Autograph, me, personally, and others make his lack of knowledge of the fraud hard for me to believe. But if the FBI's investigations result in indictments, that will be for a court to decide.
A number of respected members of the autograph hobby have been involved in the FBI investigation. Most important of all, the dealer who brought ARA and Morales to the FBI's attention. A member of Autograph Magazine Live!, I won't mention his name without his permission, or name most of the others involved at this time.
I became aware of the investigation several months in, when I got a call from FBI Special Agent Jim Wynne. One of Jim's specialties is art and collectables crime, and I couldn't be more impressed with his skill, intelligence and dedication. I've had the privilege of helping by finding victims, connections and evidence since then. It's something I'll never forget. I've chosen to keep the story under wraps until recently, so not deter the FBI's investigation. That's not typically what a journalist does; our job is to report the news as quickly and fully as possible. I hope you'll understand and forgive my delay. Even now, I'm limited in what I can share with you.
I'll tell you more about it soon, but it's 4 a.m. and want to get a little shuteye. But before I sign-off, I want to thank someone who has not only been my right hand through much of my efforts; he has selflessly paid the price of his incredibly generous cooperation. I didn't ask his permission to mention his name, but hopefully he won't mind:
Not only has Roger been there whenever I needed him to give me his opinion on autographs and provide leads, he has helped many victims of unscrupulous dealers recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in refunds on forgeries.
Roger's efforts and willingness to speak his mind have made him the music forgery industry's Public Enemy No. 1. Roger has been the subject of fraudulent so-called "stings," and defamed on fraud industry propaganda sites Autograph Alert and IADA by Gladstone associates Stephen Koschal and Michael Frost; as well as one that Gladstone admitted that he controls, Behind the Gavel.
They tried to ruin him...but they couldn't.
Roger, I can't thank you enough for all your help, and all you've done to help collectors.