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Australian Charged in Ticket Scam

June 09, 2004|Cynthia Daniels | Times Staff Writer

A 26-year-old Australian who flew to Los Angeles to watch a Laker championship game was arrested and charged with defrauding basketball fans out of $55,000 for nonexistent playoff tickets he offered over the Internet, authorities said Tuesday.

Scott Raymond Thomas of New South Wales was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday. Police had been investigating Thomas for seven months and had been tipped to his travel plans by Australian police.

His offer was too good to be true: free Laker playoff tickets to fans who purchased season tickets.

Thomas pleaded not guilty to grand theft and attempted grand theft. Bail was set at $1.5 million. He could face up to five years in state prison if convicted.

"He never had any tickets to sell," said Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Jeff McGrath.

Thomas allegedly used the EBay auction website to lure victims, claiming friendship with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak and offering center-court Lakers playoff tickets, McGrath said. He would provide the playoff tickets only if the interested party purchased season tickets as well at between $15,000 and $25,000.

From 2002 to 2003, Thomas received $55,000 in wire transfers from three buyers in Los Angeles County and offered tickets to two other county residents. The buyers allegedly never received tickets.

Thomas also received money from other alleged victims around the world, including Orange County, for items such as New York Ranger tickets and rock 'n' roll memorabilia, McGrath said.

To avoid such fraud, McGrath advised EBay buyers and sellers to do business only with sites that can show positive feedback and that use a legitimate payment service.

"Never buy anything online that you can't afford to lose the money on," McGrath said.

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