Richmond County deputies charge 24 with scalping Masters tickets

Ticket scalping an issue at club gates

 

Pam Harwell expected her Tuesday would be spent walking along the rolling green hills of Augusta National Golf Club, taking in the beautiful scenery and watching the best golfers in the world practicing their trade.

Instead, she spent her afternoon sitting on a vinyl sofa, waiting for her husband to be released from the Richmond County jail.

Aubrey Harwell Jr. was one of 24 people arrested outside the gates of Augusta National on Tuesday – all charged with disorderly conduct for violating the city’s ticket scalping ordinance.

Before coming out for Tuesday’s practice round, the Atlanta couple had been informed by friends that they could easily get tickets from patrons leaving for the day, Harwell said.

She said her husband approached a man near the corner of Berckmans and Washington roads and offered him $20 for his ticket. As soon as the exchange took place, both men found themselves under arrest, Harwell said.

“We did it right there in front of the officer. We didn’t know,” said Harwell, who was waiting to hear when her husband would be released on the $500 bond she had posted. The bond amount will serve as his fine, should he decide to plead guilty to the charge, authorities said.

Harwell said this was her first Masters Tournament and she had no idea there was a law against buying and selling tickets within 2,700 feet of the event’s gates.

“I don’t think we will be coming back,” she said.

Those arrested ranged from old to young – 72 to 18 – and from as far away as Ontario, Canada. One man from Augusta and two from Aiken were among those charged.

Outside the jail Tuesday afternoon, a crowd gathered and waited for family and friends to be released on bond.

None wanted to be named, but many complained that the law was confusing with the plethora of ticket brokers doing open business up and down Washington Road. They weren’t aware there was a 2,700-foot buffer zone where no ticket transactions could be conducted.

One man said he bought a ticket last year and didn’t have a problem. This year, he said he was arrested while trying to buy a ticket for his 12-year-old daughter.

He said he was walked away in handcuffs while his daughter remained behind with a friend.

Richmond County sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay said in addition to the 24 arrested for violating the ordinance, one man was charged with violating state law.

Edward Martin Testa, 47, of Hudson, Ohio, was arrested at Gate 9 and charged with ticket scalping. He was being held on $5,000 bond.

Deputies also filed a juvenile complaint against a local teen for trying to buy tickets too close to the event. Gay said the boy was released to his parents.

Gay said deputies are focusing their efforts on people who are stopping patrons outside the club gates. Even attempting to negotiate a ticket sale to take place at a different location is not advisable.

“Some are doing it inside the gates,” Gay said.

“We don’t want patrons being harassed by people asking them for tickets right as they come out,” he said.

If people would conduct their business outside the 2,700-foot boundary there will be no problem, he said.

“We are not arbitrarily picking folks out of the crowd,” Gay said.

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