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Colorado may make tricking ticket sites a crime

/ Source: The Associated Press

Following problems with online ticket sales for Hannah Montana and the Colorado Rockies, Colorado lawmakers are considering making it a crime for buyers to trick Web ticket sites so they can hoard tickets.

Jan Zavislan, deputy attorney general for consumer protection, told lawmakers Monday that he hasn't been able to find any other state that has taken action specifically against buyers who use software to trick Web sites in order to buy more than the maximum number of tickets for popular events. As more and more tickets are sold online, he said Colorado has a chance to scare away such buyers from Colorado sales by doing so.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg that we're going to see," Zavislan said.

During the Rockies' first failed attempt to sell World Series tickets last fall, Rockies' senior vice president Hal Roth told lawmakers that "automated robotic systems" were detected by the Web site. He also repeated the team's claim that there was also a "malicious attack" to simply shut the system down for unknown reasons, which he said was still being investigated by the FBI.

Four days before the Rockies' World Series sale, Zavislan said Attorney General John Suthers got a phone call at his home from a man warning that ticket brokers would try to "assault" the ticket sale. The man said he was a former broker and Zavislan said attorney general's representatives talked to the Rockies about this before the World Series sale.

The attorney general's office is not investigating the sale because the FBI is investigating, Zavislan said.

Last year, Hannah Montana tickets quickly sold out online and many concert-goers paid four or five times the face value to buy tickets from brokers, prompting an investigation by attorneys general in other states.

After taking testimony Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee delayed a vote on the bill because analysts estimated it would cost $365,362 to provide the prison space to house the four people expected to be successfully prosecuted for the new crime over the next five years. The bill sponsor, Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, said he was working to make the crime a misdemeanor while still allowing authorities to confiscate the tickets and their profits.

If it's made a misdemeanor, violators would serve time in a county jail, which wouldn't cost the state any money. Attorney general spokesman Nate Strauch said the penalty would then range from up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine for a first offender and 18 months in jail plus a $5,000 fine for a repeat offender.

Zavislan said he thought the prospect of losing the tickets, or their profits, would be the biggest deterrent.