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Home arrow Forgery News arrow Autograph fraudster poses as Capote, Vonnegut, Crichton

Autograph fraudster poses as Capote, Vonnegut, Crichton Print E-mail
Written by By STEPHANIE FARR   
Thursday, 04 June 2009

 

Perhaps he did it "In Cold Blood," and maybe with a bit of "Hocus Pocus," but one thing's for sure - Forrest Smith III's freedom is in "Clear and Present Danger" after he pleaded guilty Tuesday to forging signed copies of famous authors' books and selling them on eBay.

Smith's literary counterfeit operation victimized more than 1,000 bibliophiles and netted him more than $300,000 between 2002 and December, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Dubnoff said.

Smith, 47, of Reading, bought unsigned first editions of books on eBay under his account name, bigdaddy_books, Dubnoff said.

Smith already had an authentic copy of the author's signature, either from another book or a document, Dubnoff said.

"He'd take that signature to a stamp-making store," he said. "They'd take his money and make [the signature] into stamp."

Smith would then stamp the books with the "signatures" of such renowned authors as Truman Capote, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, Norman Mailer, Anne Rice, John Grisham, John Irving and Tom Wolfe, prosecutors said.

He'd then use an account he created in his wife's name without her knowledge - bev103162smith - to sell the forged books, Dubnoff said.

Prosecutors said that Smith preyed on more than 400 victims since December 2006, but Dubnoff said that he may have preyed on more than a thousand since 2002, sometimes selling a single book for more than $500.

From looking at eBay and other digital records, investigators believe that more than 2,000 people bought signed books from Smith, but some of those had legitimate signatures in them, Dubnoff said.

Dubnoff said that someone in the book-selling industry tipped off investigators to Smith's alleged scheme.

"That person noticed some peculiarities in the auctions of both user names," Dubnoff said. "Then we did our investigation and uncovered the scope of the fraud."

Smith is believed to have been unemployed and receiving disability benefits for the last 15 years, a law-enforcement source said.

Smith, who pleaded guilty to three counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud, will likely dispute the number of books he sold and his profit at sentencing, Dubnoff said.

Both figures would play into the calculation of an appropriate sentence, Dubnoff said.

Smith faces a maximum of 80 years in prison and a $1 million fine when he is sentenced in September, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

As Vonnegut himself might say: "So it goes." *

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