DAILY NEWS says federal probe underway involving DiMaggio memorabilia

Friday, August 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ A federal grand jury is investigating possible wire fraud involving the sale of memorabilia that belonged to Yankee baseball great Joe DiMaggio, the Daily News reported Friday.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White's office have subpoenaed documents involving Florida attorney Morris Engelberg, who is the trustee of DiMaggio's estate, and two New Jersey memorabilia salesman, the newspaper said.

Citing an anonymous source, the News said the probe is centered on an alleged audiotape in which Engelberg reportedly is heard trying to make a deal to sell up to $400,000 worth of DiMaggio-signed baseballs without the knowledge of the dying ballplayer.

DiMaggio died in March 1999.

The allegations first surfaced Richard Ben Cramer's book ``Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life'' where he alleges Engelberg and New Jersey memorabilia dealer Scott DiStefano struck a deal to get DiMaggio to sign some 2,000 baseballs and sell them without his knowledge, splitting the money. The telephone conversation was taped by DiStefano's boss at B&J Collectibles in Lakewood, N.J.

Engelberg has acknowledged the tape but said its meaning has been misinterpreted. ``I'm clean as a whistle,'' he told the News. He said he's considering suing Cramer and others for character defamation. No lawsuit has been filed yet.