SEATTLE -- Have you been scammed while purchasing event tickets? If the answer is yes, Seattle police want to hear from you.
Seattle Police say Darren John Elkey posted ads for fraudulent tickets on sites like Craigslist and OfferUp. So far, detectives say 40 victims have been identified.
That includes Diana Thibado, who always takes the time to search the internet looking for the best deal. But when she agreed to meet a seller from Craigslist to buy several "Hamilton" tickets at $125 apiece. The soon-to-be new mom wishes she had trusted her intuition.
“We were all so excited about Hamilton and I think my hope outweighed my reason. And when he showed me the tickets they were on the real paper and they looked legit,” says Thibado.
Thibado googled pictures of the tickets in the car and quickly realized she’d been scammed. She immediately texted the seller.
“He responded, which I thought was strange, and said that they were a present. And I said, well, I don’t think they are real and is there is any way you’d be willing to meet back up and just call it a draw and swap back. And he said OK. So for a brief moment I thought it was going to be fine and I was going to get my money back,” says Thibado.
But that never happened. So Diana reported the scam to Seattle Police, who say Diana is not alone.
According to probable cause documents, SPD arrested Elkey after he attempted to sell more fake Hamilton tickets on February 8.
You may recall his face, because he appeared on Washington’s Most Wanted back in June; he was suspected of burglarizing the Wedgwood Broiler Restaurant while wearing a catcher’s mask.
Police say he also broke into the Neptune Theatre in the University District and stole the ticket stock paper used to make the bogus tickets. King County Prosecutors have charged Elkey with Burglary in the Second Degree and Possessing Stolen Property in the Third Degree.
The Seattle Theatre Group says they spotted six of the fake tickets on opening night of Hamilton.
“They were easily spotted as fraud because they were using old school ticket stock that we haven’t used in about three years or so,” says Josh LaBelle.
Detectives said they found the remaining ticket paper and a laptop used to print the fake tickets at the suspect's home. But it doesn’t stop there. Investigators believe there are many more victims who have purchased fake tickets from this man. And not just to see Hamilton, but other big events in the area like Bruno Mars, Katy Perry and Tom Petty, just to name a few.
“This is a giant pervasive problem, one that doesn’t happen at Seattle Theatre Groups and our venues, but it happens all around the state,” says LaBelle.
The Better Business Bureau says whenever possible, purchase from the venue, know the refund policy and use payment methods that come with protection, like a credit card. Last year, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) received over 300 reports on BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/scamtracker) about ticket scams related to sporting events, concerts, theater, and more.
Detectives say Elkey advertised on Craigslist and OfferUp and always met his victims in person in the King County area. If you believe you were a victim, you can email detectives at firstname.lastname@example.org.