Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 | 10:34 p.m.
NEW YORK - An official with the National Football League held up a fistful of bright and shiny tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII and spoke into a bank of cameras at a news conference in Manhattan on Thursday.
Beware counterfeit tickets to the big game, the official, Anastasia Danias, vice president of legal affairs for the league, said. They look like the real thing, and they are the work of “sophisticated criminal enterprises,” she said.
Arrests involving two counterfeiting operations in New York this week provide a closer look at these sorts of enterprises and perhaps call for rethinking the word “sophisticated.” These suspects were more complicated, a blend of the high-tech and the homespun, a little bit laser printer and a little bit scissors and glue.
One of the counterfeiting crews routinely met in the parking lot of a restaurant in the Bronx, the police said. Suspects in both operations lived at their girlfriends’ apartments and borrowed their girlfriends’ vehicles to conduct business, the police said.
But they also shared a willingness to work hard. The tools of their trade, as described in criminal complaints and by the police, suggest an attention to detail meant to fool not just a hopeful looking to see the real thing on Sunday, but the stadium workers whose job it is to spot a fake.
The arrests of two New York suspects and a third from Pennsylvania were prompted by security officials from the NFL intent on sweeping under the city’s vast rug for bad tickets before game day.
One operation, according to the police and the complaint, ran between Queens and the Bronx.
Damon Daniels, 43, who was charged with ticket scalping, shared an apartment in Queens with his girlfriend, the police said.
Daniels had been arrested at least six times in three years, beginning in 2005, all at Madison Square Garden or Yankee Stadium.
In December, the NFL contacted the New York police and said Daniels and a partner, Eugene Fladger, 32, of Philadelphia, had lately been selling counterfeit tickets. Further, they had been boasting on ticket sites online that they would have Super Bowl tickets, as they had in past years.
The police sent an undercover officer to buy fake tickets, the police said. The officer was not posing as a fan looking for a seat, but rather, a ticket broker who knew the tickets were fakes but wanted to buy them anyway, at a reduced price, and sell them himself for a profit, said Lt. Chris Fasano, who oversaw the investigation.
Daniels printed the tickets and sold them to Fladger, who sold them on the street, Fasano said. The undercover officer met Fladger a few times in Queens, buying playoff game tickets and concert tickets as well as tickets to the Super Bowl, including fake parking passes and tickets to a party at Radio City Music Hall, the police said.
The suspects bragged that they had gotten into games with their own fake tickets - they were that high quality. Once inside, they simply avoided the actual seat on their ticket, floating around instead, Fasano said.
The police traced Daniels’ car to his girlfriend, and when officers came knocking Monday, she let them come in and examine her boyfriend’s computer, printer and photograde paper, along with early drafts of fake tickets, the complaint states. Daniels and Fladger were arrested.
Daniels said he did the work at various copy shops. “You can rent a cubby hole and use it all day,” he said, according to Fasano.
Fasano said Thursday that the arrests had had a chilling effect on similar counterfeit operations this week. Yet the very day he spoke, prosecutors announced the arrest of a suspect, Kevin Walker, 42, in the Bronx.
A detective watched him leave his girlfriend’s apartment with a shoe box and place it in a van. The detective knocked on the girlfriend’s door, and she stepped aside; he found 124 fake Super Bowl tickets, a criminal complaint states. The detective also found holographic paper, gold leaf paper, laminate glue and an extension cord in the van. Walker was arrested.