Clubs 'duped over prized rugby tickets': Advert promised pounds 125 per seat, court told

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The Independent Online
A 'FLY-BY-NIGHT' conman fooled rugby fans into handing over coveted tickets for home internationals by promising to pay top prices for them, a court was told yesterday.

Geoffrey Craig netted more than pounds 10,000, it was alleged. He was arrested after angry fans complained to police, who traced him to an address in the City of London last March. Among the alleged victims were two Welsh rugby clubs that believed they were raising funding by selling their ticket allocation.

Mr Craig, 30, of Fulham, south- west London, denies 10 charges of obtaining property and services by deception in January last year.

It is alleged that, using a false name, he rented offices and took out advertisements in regional newspapers offering up to five times the face value for 20 tickets for the Twickenham internationals in February last year.

Tom Kark, for the prosecution, told Southwark Crown Court: 'Mr Craig called himself Geoff Castle. His business was an old- fashioned fly-by-night operation. Mr Craig tricked as many people as he could in as short a time as he could and got a lot of money out of it before disappearing . . .'

Mr Kark said that the advertisements, which were never paid for, offered up to pounds 125 for the international tickets, which are 'generally hard to come by and are issued at a certain face value, in the region of pounds 20, but are immediately worth very much more than that'.

William Harris, secretary for 47 years of the Llandeilo Rugby Club, handed over 50 tickets for the promise of pounds 5,000. Mr Kark said: 'In January he saw an ad in the Western Mail and telephoned a Mr Castle and agreed a price of pounds 5,000. Neither Mr Harris nor Mr Castle appeared to trust one another because Mr Harris didn't want to part with his tickets before he got a cheque, and Mr Castle didn't want to part with the cheque before he got the tickets.'

Mr Harris's son, who lived in London, went to Mr Craig's office in Docklands to make the exchange, but ended up handing over the tickets for a letter promising a pounds 5,000 cheque in the mail.

An official from a Carmarthen rugby club also handed over 20 tickets for the promise of pounds 2,500, but again no money was paid.

Mr Kark said Mr Craig had hoped to cash in on the corporate hospitality market by selling the tickets to an agency.

The trial continues today.