CHICAGO (WLS) -- Federal investigators are cracking down on counterfeit sports tickets in the Chicago area. They are looking for at least five suspects who they say have ties to a Chicago street gang.
With spring snows winding down, fans may be looking for tickets for Friday's home opener at U.S. Cellular Field.
"There is always something unique about Opening Day, and we want to make sure we communicate to fans the safest and best way to access the ball park and to also make sure they're here with secure tickets," said Brooks Boyer, Chicago White Sox.
While Friday's game is sold out, Boyer said the safest ticket source is the White Sox box office.
"With a sold out game like we had, there is nothing worse than having people come to the box office and have to turn them away when they've been looking forward to coming to Opening Day," Boyer said.
Whether it's baseball tickets you are looking for or tickets for one of the many other events in our area, local authorities suggest you consider the source and take a second look.
"Be vigilant. Notice where you're purchasing your tickets from. Buy them from a reputable website, buy them from a reputable person who you may know. Don't just hand over your cash so freely," said Garrett Croon, FBI.
The FBI is looking for these five men after a joint investigation with the Chicago Police Dept. Police officers found fans got duped trying to get into games at Soldier Field, the United Center, and other Chicago area venues.
"Get the tickets and you think you've done a good job purchasing really cut-rate tickets at a good price, until you get to the event," Croon said.
Sixteen people face forgery charges in "Operation Bear Down" for selling fake tickets to events that also included concerts, WWE Extreme Wrestling, and Disney on Ice, according to a statement from the FBI. Eleven people have been taken into custody, but five remain on the loose.
The FBI is searching for Joseph McKnight, 27, of the 0-100 block of East 59th Street; Rodney Pole, 25, of the 7100 block of South Francisco; Marcus Moore, 19, of the 10600 block of South Champlain; Rashawn Mays, 30, of the 200 block of West Pershing; and Lamont Flowers, 30, of the 3800 block of South Wells.
The Chicago Police Department's Organized Crime Division launched the probe in November 2014 after a victim tipped investigators, the Chicago Sun-Times previously reported. CPD said more than 1,500 people were ripped off by the ring. The alleged counterfeiters raked in up to $60,000 per event, police said.
The FBI and Chicago Police targeted a group of Gangster Disciples operating out of the Wentworth Gardens housing complex.
The feds sought permission last spring to search a cellphone confiscated in March 2015 after Pole allegedly sold fake tickets to undercover officers for a Maroon 5 concert at the United Center.
Pole sold the first pair of fake tickets for $350 at a Dunkin' Donuts shop in the 1600 block of South Michigan, and the second set for $450 at a Starbucks at Wabash and Roosevelt, records show.
The gang is suspected of using the money to finance gang activities-everything from purchasing narcotics to coming up with bail for jailed members, police said.
The group allegedly used sophisticated equipment to print high-quality counterfeit tickets, which were sold on Craigslist and handed off at coffee shops or restaurants for cash.
Also charged were Labron Gray, 39; Nathaniel Gray, 24; Mitchell Hazzard, 36; Dionte Johnson, 20; Darrick McClinton, 33; Kenneth McCullough, 19; Russell Merritt, 36; David Metcalf, 25; Mark Morrison, 24; Jason Peters, 24; and Lionel Robinson, 34.
At least nine of the men are convicted felons, court records show.
Anyone with information about the wanted men is asked to call the FBI at (312) 421-6700; or 911.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.
FBI seeks 5 accused of selling fake Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks tickets
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