IOWA CITY (AP) — An Iowa woman accused of duping dozens of people into buying non-existent tickets to the Super Bowl and other high-profile events has been charged with fraud in what investigators say was a years-long Ponzi scheme that improperly netted her at least $531,000.
Ranae Van Roekel of Boyden, Iowa, was charged in federal court Monday with mail and tax fraud, four years after the scheme became public.
Prosecutors say the 48-year-old was a self-employed ticket broker who ran the business “Get ‘em Now Tickets” from January 2008 to June 2012 and told a good story to personal contacts she duped. They say she falsely claimed to have personal relationships and ties to events that gave her an inside track for deeply discounted tickets, hotel rooms and VIP passes — once saying she was on the planning committee for the 2012 Super Bowl.
Van Roekel targeted acquaintances she had met through her family’s involvement in youth football activities, investigators say.
After customers would pay thousands of dollars for tickets in advance, Van Roekel later informed them that she couldn’t fill most of the orders. To avoid detection, she issued some victims refunds using money that came in from new ticket orders. But by 2012, many were out thousands of dollars and angry with themselves for trusting her, according to lawyers who represented them.
“She definitely was taking advantage of relationships that she had with people, using that to her advantage to be able to sell them,” said attorney Corey Lorenzen, who represented about a dozen of them. “She had put together a pretty elaborate story.”