FBI seizes John Lennon fingerprints from auction

A NEW York auctioneer is contemplating the loss of at least $US30,000 in fees and commissions after the FBI confiscated a set of John Lennon’s fingerprints.

The prints, valued at $100,000 were made in 1976. They were seized by a federal agent claiming that they might be US government property. They were identified as belonging to John Winston Ono Lennon.

The agent may never have known about the fingerprints had they not been displayed on the cover of a catalogue of pop memorabilia due to be auctioned tomorrow, which would have been the Beatle’s 70th birthday.

The FBI first visited the Gotta Have It! memorabilia store and auction house in East 57th Street, Manhattan, on Wednesday morning during a press conference to publicise the auction, at which bids are also invited for Paul McCartney’s working lyrics for Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and a 2002 demo CD by Lady Gaga.

One of the store’s owners, Peter Siegel, initially refused to hand over the prints, which he said had been bought 20 years ago and consigned to him “by a gentleman in the music business”.

Shortly afterwards the agent returned with a subpoena and a colleague from the US Department of Homeland Security, Mr Siegel said. “When the FBI takes something with a subpoena you don’t have much chance of getting it back. They believe it belongs in a government file,” he said.

Mr Siegel offered an alternative theory: “Fingerprint cards with holes in mean they were in a government binder, but there are no holes here. I don’t believe this was the Government’s property. John [Lennon], being as gracious as he is, may have made an extra set for a friend.”

Mr Siegel cited Elvis Presley to support this theory. “It’s well known that when Elvis went for a gun licence he had 20 sets made,” he said. Lennon was applying for US citizenship at the time that the prints were made.

The FBI investigated his antiwar activities in the early 1970s, but he was no longer being watched by agents in 1976.

Leon Wildes, his immigration lawyer, said yesterday that the prints may be a set that went astray at that time.

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