US & Canada

FBI seizes Lennon fingerprint card from auction house

Fingerprint card
In 1991, a similar document sold without protest from the US government for $4,125

A set of John Lennon's fingerprints has been seized by the FBI from a New York memorabilia dealer.

Dealer Peter Siegel told the BBC the card was to be auctioned at a $100,000 (£62,621) minimum bid.

The prints were taken at a New York police station in 1976 when Lennon applied for permanent US residence.

An FBI official told the BBC the bureau believed the card was government property and was investigating how it landed in private hands.

Mr Siegel, co-owner of Gotta Have It! in New York City, told the BBC the shop had heard from the FBI when it began publicising an auction of 850 pieces of rock-and-roll memorabilia tied to the 70th anniversary of Lennon's birth on Saturday.

Officials said they wanted to inspect the card.

FBI officials and agents for the Department of Homeland Security did so and on Wednesday, an FBI agent returned with a subpoena demanding the item. After a round of calls and faxes between the government, Mr Siegel and his lawyer, the dealer turned it over.

"This really has nothing to do with John Lennon per se," FBI Agent James Margolin told the BBC. "It has to do with a government document."

John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Lennon, shown in 1969 with Yoko Ono, was under FBI investigation for his anti-war activities

Mr Siegel said the card's owner, a music and trade show promoter, had acquired it at a convention about 20 years ago.

The owner will now have to decide whether to try to get the card back, Mr Siegel said.

"I don't think it's going to be worth his while," he added. "They wanted it back and there was no way they were going to say 'OK, keep it'."

The card bears the name John Winston Ono Lennon and lists his address as the Dakota apartment building on West 72nd Street in New York, in front of which Lennon was felled by an assassin's bullet four-and-a-half years later.

Mr Lennon's one-time immigration lawyer Leon Wildes told the New York Times some of Lennon's paperwork had been stolen from him in 1976, including a fingerprint form.

In 1991, Sotheby's auction house sold a similar card for $4,125. A Sotheby's spokesman said at the time Lennon had made and autographed an extra copy for a policeman, so the piece sold then was not an official document.

Lennon was under FBI investigation until the early 1970s, in large part for his anti-war activities.

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