ATLANTA (Reuters) - National Football League and law enforcement officials warned football fans on Thursday in Atlanta not to fall prey to criminals selling fake Super Bowl LIII tickets and counterfeit merchandise.
Federal agents have seized about 285,000 counterfeit tickets and pieces of gear worth $24 million in a law enforcement effort dubbed “Operation Team Player,” Nick Annan, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, said at a news conference.
“Watch out for criminals who are looking to scam consumers and illegally profit off the popularity of the NFL, your home team and the Super Bowl,” NFL Vice President of Legal Affairs Dolores DiBella said.
About 28 people have been arrested and 21 convicted of crimes as a result of the operation and other law enforcement efforts connected to the Super Bowl, NFL and law enforcement officials said.
Local police and federal agents have seized unlicensed jerseys, hats, cell-phone accessories and thousands of other unauthorized items at flea markets, retail outlets and street vendors, they said.
The NFL has also obtained a civil court order that allows for the seizure of counterfeit tickets and merchandise discovered in Atlanta and the metro area during Super Bowl week, officials said.
U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania William McSwain said his office has indicted 13 individuals with several charges including trafficking in counterfeit goods, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud involving marquee events such as the Super Bowl.
“When fans spend their hard-earned money on NFL tickets and merchandise, they deserve the real deal,” he said.
In an effort to thwart illegal reproduction of the ticket to Sunday’s Super Bowl pitting the New England Patriots against the Los Angeles Rams, the NFL has created a ticket that features raised graphics, security labeling and special ink that fades when heat is applied, NFL senior counsel Michael Buchwald said.
The league encourages fans to only buy tickets from the NFL ticket exchange, on location or with established ticket retailers, he said.
Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Bill Berkrot