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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Arrest Made in Sales of Counterfeit Tickets

August 07, 2000|KATIE COOPER and JENIFER RAGLAND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

VENTURA — A man suspected of selling bogus discount carnival tickets to the Ventura County Fair was arrested late Saturday after interviews with numerous victims led police to the alleged counterfeiter.

Kenneth Cox, 44, of Ventura was taken into custody just before midnight Saturday and was charged with grand theft, authorities said.

Police are investigating whether more people are involved in the scam. Thousands of the pre-sale bogus tickets printed on pink paper with the fair's logo are believed to have been sold to unwitting buyers, and some may have been purchased through legitimate vendors.

One fairgoer, whose children tried to board the "Crazy Bus" ride on Sunday with counterfeit tickets, said his family's carnival tickets were purchased from the office at Seaside Park, where the annual fair is held.

"We figured this year we'd try to get a bargain," said Ventura resident Johnny Martinez, who said his wife purchased two sheets of 20 tickets for $20 each--the normal pre-sale price for the passes and good for 20 rides.

"I can't believe this," he said. "That's $40 down the drain."

Ventura Police Lt. Carl Handy declined to say whether police are investigating the possibility that employees of Seaside Park may be involved in the scam.

Fair publicist Devlin Raley also declined to comment on the matter, saying, "There have been a lot of rumors, and nothing has been substantiated."

Detectives are interviewing holders of the bogus tickets in their search for any additional suspects.

Cox does not work for fair operators, Handy said. He allegedly sold the fake tickets on street corners along Ventura Avenue and in different neighborhoods in Oxnard before the fair opened last week. The tickets were allegedly sold at the discounted price of $10 for a set of 20.

"This is not a sophisticated crime," Handy said. "Anybody can own a home PC with a scanner and a printer."

Signs were posted at some of the rides, warning ticket takers not to accept the phony tickets.

"I was worried I was going to get here and the kids would not be able to get on the rides," said Camarillo resident Colleen Adams.

Adams did not encounter any problems because she had genuine tickets. But Martinez, unwittingly stuck with fraudulent tickets, said he was not prepared to spend any more money for the carnival.

Cox was released from custody Sunday after posting $10,000 bail, jail officials said.

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