With Super Bowl weekend looming, federal law enforcement officials on Thursday announced the indictments of seven Philadelphia residents among 13 people who allegedly defrauded sports and music fans by printing, distributing, and selling counterfeit tickets to events that included last year’s Super Bowl between the Eagles and New England Patriots and an Army-Navy game.

“Criminal counterfeiting and piracy is not a victimless crime. When fans spend their hard-earned money on NFL tickets and merchandise, they deserve the real deal,” William McSwain, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said at a news conference in Atlanta, site of Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Those charged are accused of engaging in a scheme that spanned multiple states, involved several steps, and targeted big events to maximize profit, said McSwain, who was joined at the announcement by officials from the FBI’s Philadelphia office and other law enforcement officials.

“After determining which events would draw the most profit, the schemers would use real tickets, or photographs of real tickets, to print counterfeit ones for the event, and then the sellers would travel to the host city to sell their phony tickets to unwitting fans,” McSwain said. The scheme involved “sophisticated” printing that mimicked authentic tickets' markings and holograms, he said.

Officials announce arrests in a case involving allegedly fake Super Bowl tickets (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
Officials announce arrests in a case involving allegedly fake Super Bowl tickets (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

In addition to the 2018 Super Bowl and the 2017 Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, the events to which fans bought bogus tickets included Super Bowl 51 in Houston between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons; the college national championship games in 2017 and 2018; a Phish concert in Philadelphia; and various college basketball games and other sports events.

The seven Philadelphia residents charged and indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit good, and related counts are: Rakee Russ, 40; Khiale Warren, 52; Rodney Higginbottom, 51; Mustafa Tucker, 36; Malik Brown, 38; Kevin Sadat, 41; and Edward Dunmore, 61.

“If convicted, these individuals face a range of penalties, determined primarily by the amount of the financial loss attributable to each,” said McSwain. “And by bringing these charges federally, we have assured that many of these individuals will serve serious prison time if convicted.

“The safest route is always to purchase from an approved source,” McSwain said, noting that the majority of counterfeit sales happen not on the street but through the internet.