Police confiscate 154 counterfeit Super Bowl tickets

Shawn Neudauer, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, explains a security feature on an authentic Super Bowl ticket.

The Minneapolis Police Department and partnering agencies recovered 154 counterfeit tickets worth an estimated $900,024 on Super Bowl Sunday, officials said Tuesday.

A 65-member counterfeit merchandising and ticketing unit arrested 19 people over Super Bowl weekend and assisted the Bloomington Police Department in making similar arrests at the Mall of America, Cmdr. Christopher Granger said.

Counterfeit tickets were being sold anywhere from $400 to $5,000, Lt. Kim Lund said.

“There was no way that we could get somebody into the Super Bowl if they had a counterfeit ticket. Period,” said Shawn Neudauer, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Granger said the counterfeit merchandising and ticketing unit included partners from DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the FBI and St. Paul Police Department, among others. The unit began its operation on Jan. 26 and was broken down into five plain-clothes teams, a day and a night shift, an investigative car and a responsive crime-lab team. A sixth team worked exclusively to target known counterfeiters from out of town starting the Wednesday before the game, he said.

The teams recovered 7,597 counterfeit items of merchandise worth an estimated $520,000, in addition to the tickets, Granger said. He said the NFL issued cease-and-desist orders to businesses caught selling the counterfeit merchandise.

Granger said the teams recovered five different types of counterfeit Super Bowl tickets. They interviewed everyone that was caught with the fake tickets, Lund said.

“Our fear was that they would go back out of the perimeter and resell the ticket,” she said.

Lund noted that the authentic game tickets had heat-sensitive ink on the back of them. She said people from around the world purchased fake tickets on the street during Super Bowl week.

Victims haven’t recovered any financial losses yet, she said, though she added that there should be some indictments coming down federally.

Neudauer said there’s often very little law enforcement can do for people who buy counterfeit tickets. He said it’s especially heartbreaking when there are kids involved, noting one family from North Dakota who spent about $1,500 for a Vikings game in December.

“Watching those kids and their faces, they’re just crestfallen,” he said.

Granger said there was a steady increase in the number and types of counterfeit tickets as the Vikings season progressed. Many victims in those cases were forwarded to Detective Pat Gilligan of the Burnsville Police Department, since a couple of the purchases happened in Burnsville.

Lund said there are only three places people can buy a ticket to get into an NFL game: NFL Ticket Exchange, a team box office or Ticketmaster. Neudauer said victims are sometimes reimbursed for purchasing counterfeit tickets, depending on the kind of case and convictions that law enforcement can obtain. But he said it’s more of a situation where buyers should beware.

“Once you’ve been scammed, it’s a violation of your privacy,” he said. “You can never pay somebody to make that better.”