Winnipeg police posed as desperate diehard Tragically Hip fans ready to pay hundreds of dollars to online profiteers, in a rare undercover operation against ticket scalpers that resulted in two arrests.
Police said the two Winnipeggers arrested Wednesday turned to the internet to try to resell two tickets to Friday's Hip concert in Winnipeg at jacked-up prices.
"A lot of people are passionate about this group," Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver said. "I think in this instance, we felt we had an obligation to address this, so while we don't do this as a normal course, it was done in this case I think to send a message."
The woman, 31, and man, 30, were arrested separately, police said at an 11 a.m. CT news conference in Winnipeg.
Undercover officers tracked the two down online and made the bust, Carver said.
Each was trying to get rid of two floor tickets: One was asking for $800 for a pair, while the other wanted $680. The original sale price of each ticket was $170, or $340 for the pair, Carver said.
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Police arrested the man and woman, and issued each a provincial offence notice for breaching Manitoba's Amusement Act, which prohibits the sale, "barter or exchange" of tickets to entertainment events at a cost higher than their original selling price.
"Basically, you can't sell them for more than you paid for them," Carver said, adding the man and woman have been released by police.
The Hip announced in May that frontman Gord Downie had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The iconic Canadian rock band nevertheless set out on a nationwide summer tour that stops at Winnipeg's MTS Centre.
Not long after the tour was announced and tickets went on sale, people began to complain about overpriced ticket resales and shows that sold out in a flash across the country.
As of Thursday afternoon, online reseller StubHub had single tickets to Friday's concert going for as low as $130 and as high as $4,490 US.
Carver said there's nothing Winnipeg police can do about online resellers that operate outside Manitoba.
"We have jurisdictional issues, so if tickets are being sold out of the U.S. or out of the province, Winnipeg police don't have the ability to lay charges in those types of investigations," he said.
Official seller Ticketmaster lists single-seat prices at between $41 and $136 Cdn.
Lead singer Downie a big draw
Catching Downie on stage one more time carries a level of importance for a few Winnipeggers that even the biggest Hip fans would be hard pressed to match.
Darren Sawchuk and Joanne Schiewe are huge Hip fans who, like Downie, are facing terminal cancer.
Sawchuk, a Winnipeg lawyer and lead singer in a local Hip cover band, has an untreatable cancer, while Schiewe has glioblastoma, the same deadly brain cancer that Downie has.
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Sawchuk's bandmates hope he can get on stage to play with Downie at the Winnipeg show, but says he'll settle for taking it all in from the comfort of his front row seats.
Schiewe, 35, and her husband, Jared Spier, were among the frustrated fans left without tickets when the first wave of seats went on sale, but a group of Hip faithful eventually banded together to offer her seats.
Schiewe's Stage 4 brain cancer had been stable over the last year and allowed her to live a relatively normal life until July, when an MRI uncovered three aggressive tumours that have drastically affected the triathlete's daily life.
In February 2015, she was given six to 18 months to live.
"We have two days until you're at 18 months," Spier said to Schiewe this week, looking at his wife. "We're pushing for overtime, basically, because we got another two days after that until the Hip concert, right?"