How a con man almost got away with stealing, faking priceless sports memorabilia

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WGN Investigates

CHICAGO — His lens captured some of baseball’s biggest moments.

As the team photographer for both the Cubs and White Sox over a decades-long career, Chicagoan George Brace documented the planting of the ivy at Wrigley Field and baseball greats like Ernie Banks, Babe Ruth, and Lou Gehrig when they came through town.

Now his pictures are gone.

"It’s heartbreaking,” Brace’s granddaughter Deborah Miller said. “That was our family legacy.”

After Brace's death, his daughter and granddaughter trusted more than a million negatives to an Arkansas sports memorabilia collector who turned out to be a con man. John Rogers eventually pled guilty to wire fraud, but the charge doesn't tell the full story of how he convinced collectors to buy bogus memorabilia, and even got his hands on the photo archives from Brace and the Sun-Times.

The FBI says that was just the tip of the iceberg.  WGN Investigates went inside the investigation that found famous (but forged) names on everything from baseballs to photos and other memorabilia. Rogers is now serving a 12-year prison sentence.

After stripping the forged signatures from seized bats, the FBI is donating them Sunday to the White Sox Amateur City Elite program, which helps at-risk inner-city kids gain new skills on and off the field.

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