Thursday, May 19, 2016

NYPD Target Battery Park Ticket Scammers Preying On Tourists

The NYPD and the Parks Department police have dramatically stepped up their enforcement efforts in Battery Park and Peter Minuit Plaza adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry to combat illegal ticket sales of local attractions that target tourists.  The shady business took off in the summer of 2015. Authorities have made numerous arrests and issued hundreds of summons during the crackdown. 
The NYPD carried out a series of raids on aggressive Battery Park ticket scammers early Wednesday, nabbing them in their homes, police officials said.
Twelve suspected scammers, most with prior criminal records, were picked up by police across the city on charges of fraudulent accosting, police said. Two others were busted for parole violations.
Seven more people were still being sought as part of “Operation Tour de Force” late Wednesday for peddling unauthorized trips to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
The raids signaled that the NYPD is now determined to enforce the law against con artists who use misleading sales pitches to sell tickets to some of the city’s most high-profile tourist attractions.
The focus on fraudsters started in February, after Arkansas tourist Jeff White, 33, suffered a fractured skull at Battery Park when he was punched in the face by an illegal vendor irate White wouldn’t buy a Liberty Island ticket. 

“We learned that a number of complaints were coming in from citizens about aggressive ticket sellers … other acts of violence and assaults and began to dig into this,” said John Miller, Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counter-terrorism.
Investigators learned that of the 106 vendors they identified, about half are parolees, officials said.
Eighteen of them were convicted sex offenders, about half of those on rape charges, police said. Others had been convicted on assault, drugs and robbery charges.
Typically, the aggressive dealers will claim the tours they are hawking allow people to disembark at the statue and at the famed immigration depot. In reality, the tours merely go close to the attractions but never dock.
A company that runs these tours contracts with five firms that hire the ticket sellers, police said. Those firms frequently hire parolees, Miller said.
“It's almost like a day laborer situation,” NYPD Inspector Matthew Whelan said. “If you need work, this is a place where you can go to work.”
To build their case, cops sent undercovers in to pose as tourists. State parole officials assisted by identifying the ticket sellers who had been in prison.
Miller questioned whether parolees should be in this line of work, which involves face-to-face encounters with tourists, often with children in tow.
Early Wednesday, warrant squad cops walked suspects into the 7th Precinct.
Several of them denied the allegations. “Ain't nobody scamming nobody in Battery Park,” one handcuffed man said.
Rafael Abreu, marketing director for Statue Cruises, the only licensed carrier for trips from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty, said Wednesday there’s been a marked improvement in police enforcement of illegal ticket vendors over the past month.
“There’s been much heavier enforcement throughout the area,” he said. 
Read More:
New York Daily News - May 18, 2016 - By Ryan Sit 

New York Post - May 18, 2016 - By Tina Moore

Another Ticket Vendor Arrested in Battery Park
A Walk In The Park  - June 6, 2015 

A Walk In The Park  - May 30, 2015 

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