Va. Tech Fighting Appearance of Highly Convincing Counterfeit Ticket

Nov. 15--A counterfeit Virginia Tech football ticket surfaced for the first time this year at Saturday's game against Kent State.

It was a convincing fake. "It looks real," said Lt. Vince Houston of the Virginia Tech Police Department.

It was a student ticket, though, and the man who tried to use it to get into Saturday's game didn't have the student ID that is required for admission with a student ticket.

A gate worker scanned the ticket, and the scanner determined it wasn't valid, Houston said.

The man told police he bought the ticket from a man on Spring Road, just outside Lane Stadium, a couple of hours before the game.

The man was turned away from the game, but no one was arrested. The ticketholder couldn't recall much about the man who sold him the ticket, which had a face value of $8.

There was some question Tuesday afternoon about whether the ticket was indeed a fake, so it was taken to Tech's ticket office to be scanned there. That scanner also determined it was a fake, said Tech police detective George Jackson.

University spokesman Larry Hincker said the school is "concerned about any counterfeiting, but one ticket isn't indicative of a pandemic."

He and Houston both said they hope it was an isolated incident.

Dozens of counterfeit tickets turned up at several Tech games in 2002 but after some arrests were made and word was out that police were looking for the tickets, their use seemed to die down.

Then last year, police recovered about 200 counterfeit tickets at Tech's game against Miami. Some of them looked real while others were obvious fakes.

Several people were turned away from the game, including some who had paid upwards of $100 for each ticket.

A Baltimore man was convicted of obtaining money by false pretenses for selling four counterfeit tickets for a total of $500 at that game. Through a plea deal, the man, who contended that he didn't know the tickets were fakes, was able to avoid nine months of jail time. He was fined $2,500.

Because it can be hard to tell a real ticket from a fake one, a couple of validity scanners are kept handy at each game so questionable tickets can be quickly checked.

As extra security against counterfeiting, the design of football tickets is altered.

"We every year attempt to change the ticket around so it doesn't look like the previous year's," said Sandy Smith, assistant director of athletics for ticketing services.

Jackson said the ticket in question would look real to most people, but he thought it was a fake as soon as he looked at it.

He declined to elaborate, saying he didn't want to tell potential counterfeiters exactly what sets legitimate tickets apart.

"It's something we'll be on the lookout for next week" at Tech's final home game of the year Nov. 25 against University of Virginia, Houston said.

Copyright (c) 2006, The Roanoke Times, Va. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.