TAMPA - Turns out some of those people camping outside the St. Pete Times Forum to buy $8 hockey tickets weren't hard-core fans after all.
At Tuesday's Stanley Cup opener, Tampa police arrested two people on charges that they tried to scalp the $8 tickets for $150 each. Peter Nicholas Saunders, a 43-year-old painter who lives in Tampa, and Nicholas Alexander Friedell, 20, of Orlando were arrested shortly before the game. Both have been released on bail.
Thursday night, two more men were arrested, charged with scalping pricier tickets. Police said Brady Cooper Peden, 39, of Canada tried to sell two $96 tickets for $125 each. Also arrested and charged with scalping was David G. See of Utah. Peden was released after posting $250 bail; See remained in jail in lieu of $250 bail Friday afternoon.
In Florida, scalping is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. State law defines scalping as selling a ticket for more than $1 above its face value.
Yet without fail, police say, big sporting events such as the Stanley Cup tempt people to try to make a quick windfall.
"There's big money in this," said Sgt. Bill Todd, a longtime police detective who has worked many scalping cases, often at Tampa Bay Buccaneers football games. "Some of these guys make thousands of dollars per game."
At the Stanley Cup games so far, though, Todd isn't seeing the brisk scalping trade he witnessed at the Super Bowl and the men's NCAA basketball tournament.
"There's not as many tickets available for the Stanley Cup because it's a smaller venue, and most people seem to be hanging on to their tickets," Todd said. "They want to see the games because it's history, and it's very local."
The police department has uniformed and plainclothes undercover officers at the Times Forum before games, but they also watch the Internet for questionable deals.
Todd said he's seen tickets offered for up to $1,900 on the Internet, even though the most expensive ticket for the Stanley Cup is $450.
A Google search Friday yielded many Internet offers, some from brokers in states where scalping is legal.
Tickets Galore, based in New Jersey where scalping is legal, on Friday had tickets at ice level for $1,875 each. A representative of the national ticket seller said that price was for the ticket alone.
Florida law does allow a licensed travel agent to sell a package that includes tickets and other perks. But, Todd said, a ticket broker often will get a travel agent's license just to sell "packages" that don't include anything more than the ticket.
"We consider a legitimate package something that includes a tailgate party, transportation to the game, maybe hotel," Todd said. "And we look at whether this guy is really a travel agent."
Onlinetickets.com on Friday was offering a Stanley Cup package for $3,270. That bought a fan three nights in a four-star hotel, breakfast each day, tickets to Games 3 and 4, souvenirs, a rental car and a game program.
Premiere Sports Travel offered two nights of "luxury" accommodations, breakfast, a welcome gift and an upper-level ticket to one game of choice for $1,185.
So far, Tampa police haven't seen cases of counterfeit tickets being sold, as has happened with Bucs tickets, Todd said.
Making counterfeit tickets is a felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison.