(COLUMBUS, Ohio)-Attorney General Mike DeWine and Coshocton County Prosecutor Jason W. Given announced today that an Ohio couple has pleaded guilty to felony charges for running a Craigslist ticket scam that netted more than $200,000 and hit hundreds of victims in 36 states and Canada.
"This is one of the worst cyber scams that we've seen so far," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. "These first-degree felony convictions should make every scammer out there think twice before preying on Ohio families. We are working to drive these scammers out of Ohio one by one."
For the last four years, Todd and Jessica Steinhaus posted thousands of Craigslist ads across the country using fake names and email addresses. The couple falsely claimed to be selling hundreds of different tickets to events like the World Series, the NBA Finals, the Super Bowl, UFC fights, and dozens of concerts including Katy Perry, Usher, and Kenny Chesney. After duping victims into sending money, the Steinhauses simply kept the cash and moved onto the next victim. Victims in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati as well as larger cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles were scammed out of $200,272 dollars.
A cooperative investigation led by the Ohio Attorney General's Economic Crimes Division involved law enforcement from around the state including Brooklyn Heights Police Department, Mount Vernon Police Department, Coshocton County Sheriff office, and the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). During the investigation, investigators discovered that Todd Steinhaus was an unregistered sex offender who'd been living in Coshocton under a fake name to avoid outstanding felony warrants in Michigan. Coshocton County Prosecutor Jason W. Given requested attorneys from the Economic Crimes Division serve as special assistant prosecutors in the case.
"Law enforcement from three different Ohio counties worked very fast to uncover and prosecute two people who've been scamming Ohioans and people around the country since 2007," said DeWine. "That kind of coordination and cooperation gets results and protects Ohio consumers."
Todd Steinhaus pleaded guilty to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity (a felony of the first degree), having weapons while under disability (a felony of the third degree), and failing to register as a sex offender (a felony of the third degree). He faces a maximum of 17 years in prison. Jessica Steinhaus also pleaded guilty to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. She faces a maximum of 11 years in prison. Both Todd and Jessica Steinhaus will be sentenced in early 2012.
The Ohio Attorney General's Economic Crimes Division was created in March. The unit's purpose is to identify criminal conduct in consumer fraud cases and to assist Ohio's prosecuting attorneys in holding scammers criminally accountable for their actions. To date, the division has investigated dozens of cases that have led to nine people being charged with crimes.
Any Ohio consumer who is a victim of this ticket scam - or any other consumer scam -- should file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General's office by calling 800-282-0515 or going to OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.