VIRGINIA BEACH — When Randi and John Vogel were planning this year’s Haunted Hunt Club Farm they didn’t know that the scariest part of Halloween would be profit losses from fake tickets sold to their festival.
But that’s what the couple says happened to them in October.
The Vogels, who own Hunt Club Farm, have been hosting the Halloween festival for 29 years. They believe that this year at least 50 fake tickets were sold to their haunted hayride to unsuspecting buyers shopping on websites like OfferUp and Craigslist.
Their estimated profit losses are at least $2,200 — but that figure only considers the number of fake ticket holders they were able to intercept at the front door of the festival.
Randi Vogel believes their losses are probably higher. A ticket posting on OfferUp had more than 1,100 hits. With as many as 40,000 people attending the Halloween festival, she said it’s likely that some fake tickets slipped through the cracks.
Now, the Virginia Beach Police Department is investigating the alleged fraud.
“Halloween is the backbone of our business,” Randi Vogel said. “It’s really important because that’s how we stay open all year.”
Randi and John Vogel first became aware of the counterfeit tickets when they saw a post on OfferUp advertising a package deal that was about $15 cheaper than what real tickets would sell for.
The couple uses a complex ticket tracking system that includes numbers, so when they saw pictures of tickets online that they actually had in their possession they knew something was wrong, Randi Vogel said.
“They were selling them in combinations,” Randi Vogel said. “They were selling a $44 value for $30 or $35.”
Before reporting the post to police, the couple decided to investigate for themselves.
Randi Vogel said they sent two friends to buy tickets from the OfferUp poster. While they were picking up the tickets, their friends took pictures of the license plates on a car that was at the location they were buying the merchandise from.
John Vogel contacted the VBPD on Oct. 5. About a month later, Detective K.S. Spry took out a search warrant demanding that OfferUp give the VBPD electronic records connected to the account selling the tickets, according to documents filed in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.
Those records could include email addresses and Facebook information connected to the account, as well as the full name of the person who made the post and all messages between the buyers and seller, court documents state.
That information is pending review, according to court documents.
After the Vogels reported the OfferUp post to authorities, Virginia Beach police officers shut it down; however, later the couple saw similar fake tickets being advertised on Craigslist.
During Haunted Hunt Club Farm, staff paid special attention to the numbering on the tickets to see if they were legitimate or fake. Randi Vogel said they intercepted about 50 people coming through the gates who purchased fake tickets. Those people were allowed to enter the festival without purchasing another ticket, but only after giving a statement to the VBPD.
Police say the case is under investigation and no one has been arrested in connection with the alleged fraudulent ticket sales.
“We like doing Halloween,” she said. “It really takes a lot of the fun out of it.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the Virginia Beach Crime Solvers at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.
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