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Forged Monroe-JFK letters sought

Owners want to stop feds from destroying documents

From Jonathan Wald

Marilyn Monroe poses for U.S. troops after a performance of the USO show "Anything Goes."

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Marilyn Monroe
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Sam Giancana

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The owners of forged love letters purported to be the secret correspondence between President John F. Kennedy and actress Marilyn Monroe are trying to stop the government from destroying them.

In the 1990s, more than 350 of the documents were sold by Lex Cusack for $7 million to different buyers. Cusack was found guilty of fraud in 1999 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Government lawyers have asked a federal judge in Manhattan for permission to trash the 250 documents in their possession out of fear that the owners may sell them again.

"If the defendant documents are returned to the purchasers, there is a significant risk that these forgeries will re-enter the marketplace," the government says in its complaint.

"The only way to prevent the defendant documents from re-entering the marketplace is to destroy them."

But the owners want the documents back regardless of their authenticity.

Mike Stern, 50, bought about 40 documents for about $300,000.

"We were told by prosecutors back in '99 that once all the appeals for Lex Cusack had run their course, we'd get our documents back," Stern said.

"We paid for them, we're entitled to them. Stamp them with the word 'forgery' if you have to, but we want to hang them on our walls even if they are fake."

"And besides," Stern said, "we couldn't sell them now -- there's a history behind them now. Lex is in jail and the judge has branded them forgeries."

Carl Person, the lawyer representing 34 people people who bought the papers and two who brokered their sale, is adamant the documents are authentic.

"How do we know the documents aren't authentic," Person told CNN. "The government has the best testing facilities at their disposal, but they have never tested them.

"If they haven't tested them, why are they asking to destroy them and if they have, why didn't they let us know?" Person asked.

Lex Cusack's father, Larry Cusack, was an attorney who handled the affairs of Marilyn Monroe's mother, Gladys Baker, from 1980 to 1984, when Baker died.

Lex Cusack claimed to find reams of correspondence between Kennedy and Monroe when he began sorting his father's papers in 1991.

One of the documents includes a trust agreement from President Kennedy to Marilyn Monroe promising her invalid mother $100,000 in exchange for Monroe's silence about their relationship and Kennedy's dealings with Chicago mob kingpin Sam Giancana.

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