Monday, March 01, 2010

Olympic Games: Ticket scams aided by dubious ticketing practices by the IOC

A two-year investigation of online Olympics ticket scams has identified defrauded consumers throughout the world and dubious ticketing practices by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), according to the Moriarty Leyendecker law firm.

Hundreds of consumers – including families and friends of Olympic athletes – have been defrauded by official-looking ticketing web sites or failed to receive tickets from "gray market" resellers during the past two Olympics, said attorney Jim Moriarty who was defrauded by an online site before the Beijing Games in 2008.

"IOC officials appear to be ignoring two serious problems," Moriarty said. "First, they have not curbed ticket reselling abuses that enrich profiteers connected to the IOC and national Olympic committees. Second, they are inconsistently policing the use of Olympic trademarks that often are used on fraudulent ticketing web sites."

Moriarty said he and other defrauded consumers intend to urge law enforcement and Congressional investigation of Olympic ticketing policies and practices.

The Seattle Times reported on the plight of ticket wholesaler Gene Hammett, of Suwannee, Ga. Hammett said he wired about $2.9 million to David Bunevacz, the son of a former Hungarian Olympian, and related business entities which then failed to deliver thousands of Vancouver Games tickets. The Canadian Press reported that hundreds of ticket buyers, including the grandmother of a U.S. snowboarder, paid for but did not receive tickets when Hammett could not deliver tickets to other resellers.

Moriarty said his law firm investigated Hammett's claims. "Like his clients, Gene Hammett is a victim of a ticketing 'gray market' the IOC is unwilling to control," Moriarty said. "Mr. Hammett had enforceable contracts with high-level suppliers of tickets for the Vancouver Games. His records – from wire transfer records and contracts to e-mails to and from his well-connected suppliers – are consistent with his statements."

Hammett said, "I am desperately trying to recover the missing funds and refund our customers. I especially regret that families of Olympic athletes may have been affected by this situation. With my business, personal finances and reputation at stake, I will cooperate with any investigations. The fact is, I worked with these suppliers in China in 2008 and had acquired from them hundreds, if not thousands, of Beijing Olympics tickets for our clients. Until recently, there was no indication of trouble."

Moriarty said the problems Hammett and his customers face evolve from a lack of transparency on IOC ticketing and resale policies and its inconsistent protection of Olympic trademarks and other intellectual property. Moriarty said he has identified dozens of questionable Internet address registrations with language that appears to be related to the 2012 London Games.

"The tragic consequence of the IOC's failure to completely address the ticketing and online fraud issues is that the people the Olympic athletes most want to be at the Games – their families and friends – end up being among the most vulnerable to the ticketing scams and other abuses," Moriarty said.

In 2008, the IOC and the U.S. Olympic Committee filed lawsuits in U.S. federal courts against operators of two web sites, alleging that they used committee trademarks to deceive and defraud the public. The lawsuits did not seek to recover losses for defrauded consumers.

That year, consumers, including Moriarty, reported a London-based ticketing syndicate to British law enforcement authorities after millions of dollars of tickets purchased for the Beijing Games were not delivered. Six people were later charged by the Serious Fraud Office in London and are awaiting trial. The leading technology firm Cisco described the alleged fraud as "one of the most elaborate social engineering Internet scams of 2008."

Moriarty Leyendecker maintains a web site to support its investigation of Olympic ticketing issues and provide resources to defrauded consumers.

Source Moriarty Leyendecker

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