Tourist Board cracks down on fraudsters

Tourist Board director Louis Lewis

The grandson of a prominent lawyer was arrested and detained by police at Pigeon Island on Sunday May 8, during the finale of the 2011 Saint Lucia Jazz Festival. According to a police source on the scene, the young man was one of several who were held over the weekend of the festival in connection for the “scalping” of tickets obtained by fraudulent means. The young man was later released with a reprimand, but others were not so lucky. The STAR was able to observe on Saturday May 7 and Sunday May 8 the police cracking down on a number of young men near the entrance of the Pigeon Island Jazz venue, soliciting purchasers for tickets.

However on Sunday, these “scalpers” became less conspicuous, when the police started moving in. Scalping is a term used for ticket resale for admission to concert events and in many countries including the United States, this activity is illegal. In most cases, the tickets are purchased from licensed sellers and are then sold for a price determined by the individual or company in possession of the tickets.

However, in some cases the tickets are complete forgeries. Tickets sold through secondary sources may be sold for less or more than their face value depending on demand, which itself tends to vary as the event date approaches. This supply and demand scenario works in the scalpers benefit if official tickets from box offices or ticket outlets are sold out, raising the value for any tickets on offer through secondary sellers, meaning the scalpers.
This week the STAR checked with several local attorneys to verify whether Saint Lucia’s criminal code addressed the subject of scalping. Some of those with whom we spoke could not say for certainty whether it did or didn’t although many were of the view that it did not.
Here in Saint Lucia, over the years it has become customary for persons who are not affiliated with a particular event to be outside the venue, selling tickets. These tickets are either complimentary tickets, purchased tickets or fraudulent tickets. In the case of the Jazz Festival the trend has grown over the years and one year in particular involved a scam where persons were using computers to reproduce official Jazz passes and using them or selling to friends.
Last week, however, local ticket scammers appeared to have gotten even more sophisticated in creating false tickets and even using fraudulent credit cards to purchase tickets online.

Several persons looking for a last minute ticket to see Trey Songz on Saturday and John Legend on Sunday as the headliners, scooped up those tickets which were sold for less that EC$175, the value of the original Jazz tickets.
The STAR spoke to Louis Lewis, the Director of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, organizers of the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival, about the matter. “It is very unfortunate that while we try to move to a more innovative and less cumbersome means of allowing people to purchase tickets online, which has the added benefit of allowing us to track exactly the demographics of the patrons to the festival that some people rather focus on fraudulent means to capitalize on this,” Lewis told us.
“But I think that this is a reflection of the issues within the wider society and it is a bit unfortunate that we had to spend a tremendous amount of effort in trying to prevent some of those things from happening but I am grateful for the assistance of the police that they were able to stop a number of these perpetrators. But that is really energy that could have been diverted elsewhere and is one of the sad developments around the festival,” the SLTB Director stated.
Police inspector Moses Charles who was in charge of policing operations during the Jazz Festival, confirmed with the STAR that his team were alerted by the SLTB about the fraudulent tickets.
“We questioned several persons and at least two were arrested for selling
fraudulent tickets during the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival,” Charles informed us.
“The matter of the fraudulent credit cards is part of an ongoing and wider operation,” he added. Both Lewis and Charles are in agreement that the time has come for the criminal code to adequately deal with the issue of ticket scalping which causes problems
not only for the organizers of events, but for innocent and unsuspecting patrons as well.

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