SAN FRANCISCO — A Honolulu man has been arrested in connection with what is believed to be the biggest counterfeit ticket operation in Super Bowl history, NFL officials said Saturday.
Don Weiss, executive director of the NFL, said that "upwards of 500 tickets may be in circulation."
Weiss said police made an arrest with the assistance of a victim, a man who became suspicious after buying 32 phony tickets in two transactions, paying $225 for some tickets and $250 for the others. He agreed to meet the suspect, allegedly to buy more tickets, at a fast-food restaurant Friday night.
Dean Scott Foes, 26, of Honolulu was arrested by police in Millbrae, a suburb near San Francisco International Airport. He is being held for investigation of grand theft, forgery and conspiracy.
Warren Welsh, the NFL's director of security, said that Foes is believed to be a "mere worker" for a counterfeiting ring.
Weiss said police have issued a warrant for a second person believed to be involved.
"The last significant case of counterfeiting was at Super Bowl X. It was a very similar case, but the number of tickets was minimal, less than three dozen," Weiss said.
Millbrae police recovered 28 counterfeit tickets Friday night. Four tickets purchased by the victim had been re-sold.
Welsh said the $250 price asked was "below the market here." The going price for Super Bowl ticket resales reportedly is $350 and up.
Weiss said the counterfeit tickets have duller coloring and are on thinner paper than real Super Bowl tickets. Also, the typeface on stairway, section and seat numbers is oversized compared to the good tickets.
The NFL has set up a ticket verification center at Candlestick Park for fans wishing to check the authenticity of tickets, Weiss said.
In another incident, a man who claimed to be a former NFL referee who won 100 Super Bowl tickets in a lawsuit against the league bilked at least one person out of $1,700. The suspect has not been found.
The victim was Gary Easthouse, who said the man made off with his deposit money for 16 tickets, all supposedly near the 40-yard line.
Easthouse, of Aptos, Calif., said the man claimed he was a former NFL referee who sued the league after he was beaten by an angry mob of fans. He said the case was settled with a lifetime supply of 100 Super Bowl tickets.
"It sounded bizarre enough to be true, and I bought the story hook, line and sinker," said Easthouse, a 14-year, 49er season-ticket holder who is in the plumbing supply business. "I talked to the guy about 12 times on the phone, and I felt confident. But I never met him personally."
Easthouse said the scam began when his daughter answered a newspaper advertisement that read "100 Super Bowl tickets, guaranteed. Will deliver on Jan. 15."
The man sent Easthouse's daughter several ticket application forms and a hardcover copy of the NFL book, "Super Bowl by the Bay."
Just days before the tickets were to arrive, Easthouse said he "got greedy," and ordered 20 more tickets, which the phony ex-referee agreed to provide.
Easthouse said he then ran his own newspaper ad and collected $4,000 from prospective buyers. He said he realized he had been taken when the original 16 tickets failed to arrive, as promised, at his wife's office.
Easthouse said the man had given Easthouse's name as a reference to other prospective ticket buyers, who phoned after they, too, had been stung.
One of them led Easthouse to the con man's Milpitas apartment, which appeared to have been vacated. His landlord said he had not seen him since Monday.
Easthouse said he was forced to sell the pair of tickets he won in the 49ers lottery to recoup his loss.
"I sold them for $800 each, so I almost got it all back," he said. "Then again, I won't be going to the Super Bowl now."