Illinois man charged in sale of fake Scouts' merit badges

August 13, 1993|By Chicago Tribune

DE KALB, Ill. -- If only there were a Boy Scout merit badge for counterfeiting through embroidery, Michael W. Welsh might be suspected as a candidate to receive one.

He has other accomplishments for which more traditional civics badges would seem appropriate. He served on the De Kalb City Council for eight years. He got 43 percent of the vote in De Kalb's mayoral election in April.

But now, how about a badge for seeing the FBI in action, up close, as they make an arrest?

At the 1993 Boy Scout Jamboree that ended this week in Bowling Green, Va., Mr. Welsh, a Scouting volunteer, was arrested on charges that he peddled bootleg versions of the badges Boy Scouts earned for attending the gathering, authorities said.

Mr. Welsh might not have known that this jamboree, like all Boy Scout jamborees, would be crawling with agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

-! It was a Boy Scout leader and

FBI agent, Dan Estrem, who reported that he was attending the jamboree when he saw Mr. Welsh selling unauthorized Boy Scout patches, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Virginia.

At jamborees, events held every four years that attract tens of thousands of Boy Scouts, a huge barter economy springs up, and patches are the coin of the realm.

Like any economy, the patch economy has rules. The Boy Scouts want to keep the trading as clean as their image, and so they prohibit adults from trading with youths, thinking the adults might have an unfair advantage.

According to a federal criminal complaint, Mr. Welsh was charged with selling counterfeit 1993 jamboree badges with a value of at least $2,500.

After a hearing before a U.S. magistrate, Mr. Welsh was released on his own recognizance.

The specific charges against him allege that he violated federal copyright and trademark laws and transported the unauthorized badges over state lines.

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