Counterfeiters peddled phony tickets to Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks games and funneled the proceeds back to their street gang, authorities said Tuesday after a 14-month investigation.
Sixteen people face forgery charges in Cook County for selling fake tickets to events that also included concerts, WWE Extreme Wrestling and Disney on Ice events, Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office announced Tuesday. Eight had been arrested as of Tuesday afternoon, while arrest warrants had been issued for the rest.
The Chicago Police Department’s Organized Crime Division launched the probe in November 2014 after a victim tipped investigators. CPD said more than 1,500 people were ripped off by the ring. The alleged counterfeiters raked in up to $60,000 per event, police said.
The FBI and Chicago Police targeted a group of Gangster Disciples operating out of the Wentworth Gardens housing complex.
The feds sought permission last spring to search a cellphone confiscated in March 2015 after 25-year-old Rodney Pole allegedly sold fake tickets to undercover officers for a Maroon 5 concert at the United Center.
Pole sold the first pair of fake tickets for $350 at a Dunkin’ Donuts shop in the 1600 block of South Michigan, and he sold the second set for $450 at a Starbucks at Wabash and Roosevelt, records show.
On Tuesday afternoon, authorities were continuing to search for Pole, who was previously convicted of illegal gun possession.
The gang is suspected of using the money to finance gang activities — everything from purchasing narcotics to coming up with bail for jailed members, police said.
The group allegedly used sophisticated equipment to print high-quality counterfeit tickets, which were sold on Craigslist and handed off at coffee shops or restaurants for cash.
Madigan said the FBI referred the case to her office for prosecution.
Also charged are Lamont Flowers, 20; Labron Gray, 39; Nathaniel Gray, 24; Mitchell Hazzard, 36; Dionte Johnson, 20; Rashawn Mays, 20; Darrick McClinton, 33; Kenneth McCullough, 19; Joseph McKnight, 26; Russell Merritt, 36; David Metcalf, 25; Marcus Moore, 19; Mark Morrison, 24; Jason Peters, 24; and Lionel Robinson, 34.
At least nine of the men are convicted felons with crimes ranging from burglary to theft to drug and gun possession, court records show.
Police said most of the defendants are on a department list of people most likely to become shooters or victims of gun violence.
“This ticket scheme provided the finances to fuel the engine of violence that has plagued Chicago communities for far too long,” Chicago Police Interim Supt. John Escalante said in a statement.