Olympic ticket fraud costs VANOC

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

A Visa card scam involving more than 30 Latvians cost the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee $1 million to $2 million in ticket revenue.

“We are currently determining with our insurers and Visa how this will be settled,” VANOC vice-president of communications Renee Smith-Valade said Tuesday.

Vancouver Police Const. Lindsey Houghton said three Latvians were charged with fraud over $5,000 for using stolen Visa card numbers to buy tickets on the official Olympic resale website.

Houghton said Arturs Abroskins, 20, was arrested picking up tickets on Feb. 24. Maris Latvijas Avens, 32, and Andris Stuks, 30, were arrested two days later. Online court records show Abroskins was found guilty March 19 and Stuks March 26 in Vancouver Provincial Court. Records for Avens were not available.

Houghton said they used their own passports to enter Canada via Great Britain and appeared to be among more than 30 low-level members of an organized ticket-scalping operation. Houghton said the three were deported.

“They were staying in a hotel in Victoria and they’d fly back and forth every day,” Houghton said. “Presumably they were here just as runners for somebody; we don’t know and we’ll probably never know.”

VANOC promoted the December-launched Fan-to-Fan Marketplace as the safest, most secure way to buy and sell Olympic tickets.

Smith-Valade said payments to 200 account holders have been delayed, but everyone who sold fraudulently purchased Games tickets via the online Fan-to-Fan Marketplace "has been or will be this week made whole."

“Those cheques will be sent this week,” she said. “We are deeply grateful for these account holders' patience.”

The VANOC board meets Wednesday morning at its East Vancouver headquarters for the first time since January.

POLL