Trying to cash in on the publicity surrounding Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy at the center of an international custody dispute, sellers are auctioning dozens of Elian-related items on the auction site. Buyers can find everything from T-shirts and buttons protesting the federal government's actions in the case to a host of hoax items, such as a picture supposedly drawn by Elian.
eBay has begun to cancel some of the Elian-related auctions, including that of a raft on which the boy supposedly survived while traveling to the United States from Cuba. Earlier in the day, bidding on the raft reached $10 million.
eBay spokesman Henry Gomez said the company decided to remove the auction after contacting the seller. Although the seller earlier said the item was authentic, he wasn't able to provide documentation on the item or his purchase of it, Gomez said.
"We reserve the right to pull down any auction that we question," Gomez said.
The bidding on the raft may have fueled the imaginations of other entrepreneurs--and practical jokesters. A search on eBay for "Elian" yields 123 items that run the gamut from serious to humorous to bizarre. Among them: dirt supposedly from his playground and a "space raft" that carried "Alien Gonzales" to Earth.
One seller is offering holy water from Little Havana in Miami, where Elian was staying with his relatives. Michel Paradis, a student at Fordham University in New York, said he is exploiting the exploitation of the boy.
"This has gotten entirely out of hand, and I find it comical," Paradis said.
With eight days left in the auction, Paradis' bottle of water has already received six bids, with a top bid of $43.50.
Spokesman Kevin Pursglove said eBay has taken steps to cut down on hoax auctions and bidding, such as requiring some people to register credit cards with the site. But he added that the company is not giving special scrutiny to the Elian-related items, and some of the items could be hoaxes.
"It's altogether possible," Pursglove said. "If we find out about hoax items, we will remove them."
Several Elian-related auctions have been suspended, including one purporting to sell the boy himself and another offering a toothbrush "resembling Elian Gonzalez's."