A man who tried to sell fake tickets to the January playoff game between the Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers was sentenced Thursday to six months in jail.
Mario Riep is a Bengals season-ticket holder. The 36-year-old West Chester man has two seats at Paul Brown Stadium, he told Judge Jody Luebbers at the hearing in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.
In early January, he advertised two fake tickets on Craigslist for $500 – for the Jan. 9 Wild Card game that the Bengals lost after imploding in the closing minutes.
A man who saw the notice on the online classified website contacted Cincinnati police, and undercover officers set up a sting operation, which led them to Riep. The word “stadium” was spelled incorrectly on the tickets, according to Luebbers.
Police searched Riep’s vehicle and found numerous other tickets “that were photoshopped along these lines,” Luebbers said in court.
“I just wonder,” Luebbers told him, “how many times you’ve actually done it and not been caught.”
Luebbers also sentenced Riep, who pleaded guilty last month to a forgery charge, to three years of probation and 400 hours of community service. She ordered him to pay a $2,000 fine.
“You’re a con-man. You’re a con-artist,” she said.
Luebbers also said Riep has a long history of “preying on the vulnerable” – including a blind man in 2002 who ran the Hamilton County Courthouse deli. In that case, Riep twice paid the man a $1 bill but asked for — and got — change for a $20 bill.
He pleaded guilty to theft from a disabled adult and was sentenced to nine months in prison. In court Thursday, Riep said he was “just making a joke with the blind guy” and was “young and dumb, at the time.”
Luebbers responded: “Now, sir, here you’re preying on emotional, excited, elated Bengals fans who want to go to an exciting game – and tickets are so hard to find… Again you’re preying on the vulnerable.”
Riep, who said he works as a petroleum inspector on barges and at refineries along the Ohio River, said his intention was to “try to help someone get playoff tickets.”
“I’m not a predator.” he said, his voice breaking.