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Scalpers peddling wire-walk tickets; Seeking top dollar for event's free passes

A black market for tickets to Nik Wallenda's wire-walk across Niagara Falls has emerged on the Internet.

While the tickets to watch the June 15 stunt from Goat Island on the American side were quickly scooped up for free last week, they are now being sold online for top dollar.

One seller has advertised one ticket to the event for $250 on Craigslist, while others aim to sell packages for the tickets on eBay for as much as $400.

"See history in person," one advertisement reads. "Only 4,000 of these tickets were made available."

When the free tickets went online last week, they were reserved in less than four minutes, causing the phone and computer systems of tourism officials to crash and leaving workers astonished at the demand.

But state officials aren't as amused at the thought of the tickets being sold on the black market.

"I think people really need to understand that the vouchers must be redeemed with matching photo IDs," said state park spokeswoman Angela P. Berti. "We're cautioning people who are interested in seeing the walk that they are on a 'buyer beware' basis," and the tickets have no cash value.

"It's a free event," she added. "It's not costing anyone anything to see it."

Others, though, see the event as a way to make some pocket money from a stunt that is being touted as historic and once-in-a-generation.

They plan to take advantage of the fact that limited viewing exists in Niagara Falls State Park because there are limited vantage points of the Horseshoe Falls at Terrapin Point on Goat Island.

The scalpers also believe they have a way around the state's photo ID restrictions.

In multiple advertisements, the seller offers to redeem the ticket with photo identification for the wristband, which spectators need to gain access to Terrapin Point. The seller would then meet the buyer at a predetermined place in the city to exchange the money for the wristbands.

Police, though, caution that a buyer has no way of knowing whether the ticket or wristband is counterfeit.

"If you do buy it, you could end up having problems at the gate," said Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John R. Chella. "Not only would you not be allowed admission, but you'd lose your money."

He also advised against meeting someone in a place where the seller knows the buyer has a large amount of money.

"You don't know who you're dealing with," Chella said.

The seller of the $400 package attempts to reassure potential buyers by writing that part of the money from the sale will be donated to charity.

"If this makes you nervous or you feel you are being scammed, I assure you this is legit," the seller writes.

Another seller says he is not looking to make a profit but wants to trade the Wallenda ticket on Craigslist for video games, professional wrestling memorabilia or other event tickets.

The Wallenda ticket scalpers aren't the first people who have attempted to make money in an unauthorized way from tourists at the falls.

Last year, two state park workers, a tour bus operator and workers at two tour companies were charged in an alleged scheme to resell tens of thousands of dollars worth of stolen tickets for attractions in Niagara Falls State Park.

The group was accused of scheming to sell $10,000 worth of tickets to state park attractions such as the Maid of the Mist and the Cave of the Winds. City officials called the scheme an "embarrassment" to the city.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster said the ticket scalping is an "inherent part of the system," but he said city police will be watching out for any illegal schemes.

"I think we're trying to be vigilant about this type of thing, but there are always going to be some people out there who are going to take advantage of travelers and tourists because they feel they're naive about what's going on and therefore easy targets," Dyster said.

The mayor took a positive from the high ticket prices, though.

"It's encouraging that at least people are willing to pay," he said. "[It shows] there's a lot of interest in being an eyewitness to this event."