A Gwinnett County ticket supplier has become the focus of an Olympic ticketing scam that has left thousands of fans without seats to the Winter Games just one week before they begin.
Action Seating, a licensed ticket wholesaler, has been sued in Georgia for breaking a contract with Arizona-based eSeats.com and other ticket distributors for failing to send out blocks of tickets as promised.
But in a letter to customers, Action Seating states it couldn't send out those tickets because it didn't have them, either. The company said it is a victim of fraud -- and that the tickets are being held up by an unknown company in Hong Kong
eSeats said in its own statement that it and other ticket distributors bought thousands of Olympic tickets from Action Seating to resell. ESeats never received the tickets – costing the company $400,000 and leaving its 176 clients without a way in to the Vancouver games.
ESeats is “exploring all available means to find replacement tickets or refund monies paid by its customers for Olympic tickets purchased through Action Seating,” the company said.
Action Seating’s Web site has been taken down.
Atlanta lawyer Gordon Berger said he could not comment beyond a letter he sent out on behalf of Action Seating. Berger said he has not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit.
Details are unclear, but the letter states Action Seating did not receive tickets from an unknown company in Hong Kong – because of lack of payment by yet another ticket source.
“According to the ticket source, the Hong Kong company refuses to release the tickets and instead has claimed a right to hold and sell them. We received a copy of a letter purporting to be from the financing company wherein it promises to reimburse the ticket source for the cost of the tickets after they are able to sell the tickets.
"After further investigating, and being unable to confirm the identity and source of this Hong Kong company, we concluded that Action Seating may be a victim of fraud.”
Action Seating has contacted “appropriate authorities” to investigate what has happened but added that it “does not have the funds available” to provide refunds, the letter states.
The letter also said it doesn’t know whether Action Seating will ever be able to recover its losses but it “will make every effort to reimburse each of its customers what they paid.”
Maria Gatica and three friends paid $3,440 for five women’s figure skating tickets through ticket reseller, Cheaptickets.com. Gatica, who contacted AJC.com by email, said she bought the tickets last July and received two email confirmations from Action Seating stating that the tickets would be shipped “on or before Sunday, 1/31/2010.”
Action Seating sent out an email to Gatica and other customers on Jan. 13, again confirming that their Olympic tickets were on their way via FedEx.
“We are planning to begin shipping tickets at the end of January and should be finished shipping by the first week of February,” the email states.
Gatica, 27, lives in Mexico City. She started a Facebook page, Defrauded Actionseating, after learning last week that she would not receive her tickets.
“Of course we read the warning, saying that the most secure way to buy tickets was at the official site,” Gatica said in an email. “Of course we did some research about this company, and everything looked OK.”
Gatica said she has been using the Internet to further research Action Seating and ways to either get new tickets or a refund for the other ones. She supplied the AJC with emails that include the ticket transaction last year as well as correspondence with Action Seating.
In a statement from eSeats, the company said is trying to find replacement tickets for its customers. CEO Bob Bernstein did not immediately return phone calls or emails for comment.
The scandal has been widely reported in the Canadian media as would-be ticket-holders began contacting companies such as eSeats and Vancouver-based Showtime Tickets when they hadn’t received their ticket order.
“This fiasco has touched anybody in the ticketing business in some capacity,” Mario Livich, chief executive officer of Showtime Tickets, told the Canadian Press.
Among those impacted, according to the Canadian Press, include Martha Hight – grandmother of U.S. Olympic snowboarder Elena Hight – who ordered tickets through eSeats.
She phoned the company to find out that the tickets weren’t coming because eSeats hadn’t received them from Action Seating, the Canadian Press said.
The Vancouver Olympic organizing committee has warned that the most secure way to buy tickets is through the official site or through one of their official retailers. The committee has also set up a “fan-to-fan” marketplace on its Web site as a way for attendees to buy tickets from others.
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