BUTLER COUNTY —
As excited football fans from throughout the region scramble to buy tickets to Saturday’s Bengals playoff game against the Steelers, police are warning them to beware of counterfeit tickets.
Lt. Steve Saunders, from the Cincinnati Division of Police, said undercover and uniformed police will be searching for scalpers selling counterfeit tickets to the sold-out AFC Wild Card game Saturday night at Paul Brown Stadium. He urged those needing tickets to purchase them from legitimate third-party ticket brokers.
Otherwise, he said: “You’re just rolling the dice.”
He has heard that some counterfeiters are using the same card stock that the legitimate tickets are printed on.
“These people are pretty good at what they do,” Saunders said.
A West Chester Twp. man will miss the playoff game Saturday night if he remains in jail.
Mario Reip, 36, was charged with two counts of trademark counterfeiting after he allegedly arranged to sell two fake Cincinnati Bengals playoff tickets to undercover police, according to court documents filed in Hamilton County.
Police said Reip listed two counterfeit tickets for $500 on Craigslist.
On Wednesday, Reip appeared before Judge Curt Kissinger in Hamilton County Court. Bond was set at $100,000 on each count, according to documents. To get released, he’d have to post 10 percent, or $20,000, plus $170 in fees, according to court records. After his court appearance, Reip was taken to the Hamilton County Jail.
His counterfeit tickets looked authentic with logos and characteristics consistent with actual Bengals tickets, police wrote in a criminal complaint filed in Hamilton County Municipal Court. Reip was arrested Monday and charged with two counts of trademark counterfeiting.
Jeff McDonald, public relations director of 333-SEAT, a ticket agency since 1982 in Cincinnati, estimated there could be 500 to 2,000 counterfeit tickets for sale before Saturday’s game. He called counterfeiting tickets “an enormous problem” for fans, ticket brokers, police departments and teams.
He said professional counterfeiters have operations in Atlanta and Brooklyn, and after they print the tickets, they send scalpers to the cities to sell the tickets before the game starts.
“They do an amazing job,” McDonald said of the counterfeiters. He said the advancements in technology have made it easier for tickets to be counterfeited. Also, he warned, people never should share pictures of their tickets on the Internet. He said counterfeiters can copy the bar code on the ticket and reproduce the same ticket.
“Then,” McDonald said, “they beat you to the gate with your ticket.”
McDonald said his company is in business to buy and resell tickets, but there are times, because of what he called “a bad comfort level,” where it refuses to purchase tickets. He said they turn down about 15 percent of the tickets they’re offered.
He said 333-SEAT has a limited number of tickets between $119 to $158 available for Saturday’s game. They will be open all day Saturday, he said.
The game is sold out through the Bengals box office, except a few select packages, the team said.
“Only tickets that have been purchased directly from the Bengals, or through the NFL Ticket Exchange, can be guaranteed for the game,” said Bengals spokesman Bob Bedinghaus.
Police have broken up other counterfeit ticketing scams in the past.
Just prior to the Bengals vs. Houston game on Nov. 16, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office intercepted and arrested a pair of men who were attempting to sell hundreds counterfeit tickets and parking passes.
“We have spoken to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters,” Bedinghaus said, “and he has told us he intends to aggressively pursue anyone caught selling counterfeit tickets or parking passes.”