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Real money is needed to make fake Super Bowl tickets

TAMPA — All nine people arrested Sunday for selling counterfeit Super Bowl tickets came from outside Florida.

Sgt. Bill Todd, who supervised the Tampa Police Department's counterfeit detail during the game, said that's not unusual.

Counterfeiting a piece of paper as elaborate as an NFL Super Bowl ticket — with its hologram and heat-sensitive ink — is expensive and requires planning.

"To have that kind of resources takes an organized group," Todd said.

Counterfeit ticket salespeople who come to Tampa are often associated with groups out of Philadelphia, New York and Georgia, Todd said.

"How to get to them is typically the challenge," he said.

The people arrested — like those booked into jail Sunday for hawking their faux passes — are often just on the front lines of the scam.

In one case, Todd said, a victim who realized he'd been scammed turned into a perpetrator himself when he tried to sell the ticket to another unknowing buyer and was busted.

Whatever the case, it's the people behind the scenes who prove more difficult for investigators to locate.

The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition of Washington, D.C., alleges that profits from counterfeit goods often support organized crime, drug trafficking, child labor and terrorist activity.

Selling counterfeit goods is relatively low risk compared to selling drugs — but it is also highly profitable, cash based and hard to trace, the coalition wrote in a 2005 "white paper." The paper also cites a General Accountability Office report that described "illicit sales of a variety of counterfeit goods" by terrorists.

The coalition, which has been around for 30 years, is dedicated to helping law enforcement prevent counterfeiting and piracy.

In all, counterfeiting costs U.S. businesses $200 billion to $250 billion a year, and is responsible for the loss of more than 750,000 jobs, the group claims.

Todd said investigating counterfeiters requires cooperation among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The street arrest is only the first step. Next come questions.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Real money is needed to make fake Super Bowl tickets 02/03/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 11:34pm]
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