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HOUSTON - Every year, devoted fans desperate for a seat at the Super Bowl shell out big bucks for what turn out to be counterfeit tickets. Even if the tickets fans buy off-market are authentic, there’s a chance they could have been reported stolen or lost by the original buyers, rendering them useless.
Even more people buy what they think are genuine NFL hats or jerseys but have really been swindled into purchasing fake stuff.
On Thursday morning, representatives from the NFL, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Houston Police Department, Harris County District Attorney’s Office and the Harris County Constable’s Office teamed up for a news conference warning consumers and would-be counterfeiters that a formidable force is on guard.
“Operation Team Player,” as the joint endeavor is called, has already resulted in the seizure of 260,000 sports-related items, worth an estimated $20 million, and there have been 56 arrests and 50 convictions, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement tip sheet released during the conference.
The NFL, as it does each year, has obtained a court order allowing the immediate seizure of fake tickets or merchandise, said NFL Vice President of Legal Affairs Dolores DiBella.
Mike Buchwald, senior counsel at National Football League, displayed several authentic Super Bowl tickets and detailed the many intricate features embedded to thwart counterfeiters – raised surfaces, hologram images and such. Criminals selling fakes are ever more sophisticated in creating copies, he said, and every year customers get hoodwinked.
“Every year, we see fans who arrive at the stadium on game day only to be turned away,” he said. “No matter how real the ticket may look, a fake ticket will not get you into the game.”