BOWLING GREEN - Teresa Hendrix summed up how much interest she and other college football fans had in getting tickets to the Ohio State-Michigan game last November.
"On a scale of one to 10, it's probably 30," Ms. Hendrix, a member of the Army Nurse Corps from Columbus said yesterday in Wood County Common Pleas Court.
She and others who bought tickets for the big game through an Internet auction site from Mark West of Fostoria took the stand on the first day of Mr. West's trial on felony theft and telecommunications fraud charges.
Paul Dobson, an assistant Wood County prosecutor, told the jury in opening arguments that Mr. West began selling tickets to the November game on eBay beginning in March, 2005. He used his customers' money, to pay for trips and cars.
"Mark West took money from people all over the country," he said. "He took it under the false pretense that he had tickets to sell. He took it with the purpose to use that money to his own ends."
Defense attorney Andy Hart told the jury that Mr. West, 54, had been selling tickets to major sporting events and concerts on eBay from 2002 to 2005 without a single unsatisfied customer. The Ohio State-Michigan game was the first time he couldn't deliver, Mr. Hart said, adding that Mr. West will take the stand this week to explain why.
"The evidence is going to show that at the end of a three-year business, the business failed," Mr. Hart said. "When it failed and died, it left a huge amount of civil debt."
He said Mr. West did not deliver Ohio State/Michigan tickets to about 250 of the 399 people he sold tickets to, but his business failure "had nothing to do with criminal intent and purpose to deprive people of their money."
Dr. Stephen McCarren, an anesthesiologist from North Canton, Ohio, testified that he bought four tickets for $1,314 from West last spring.
"I was going to take my wife and kids to the game," he said.
Dr. McCarren, 40, and others who took the stand said they felt confident buying tickets from Mr. West because of the positive feedback previous customers had posted on eBay. He said he was comfortable with the fact that the tickets wouldn't be delivered until two weeks before the game because of Mr. West's track record.
The eBay posting indicated the tickets would not be delivered until early November to prevent buyers from reselling them. Greg Boring, 33, of Westerville, Ohio, said he didn't question that when he paid $814 for four tickets from Mr. West. "I thought the seller was trying to sell them to someone who was actually going to the game and not sell them to a broker," he said.
Both men said they got the impression that Mr. West had the tickets he was selling because he included the section and row of the seats in the UM stadium. "I don't know how you would be able to list something for sale and list a specific section and row and not have them right there in front of you," Mr. Boring said.
Also expected to take the stand this week is Mr. West's wife, Teresa. Mr. Dobson said she thought her husband worked at a drug and alcohol counseling agency full time and sold tickets on eBay on the side. He said she was left to pick up the pieces when angry customers and the media began hounding her husband a week before the game.
Mr. West fled to Daytona Beach, where authorities found him about two months later. He has been in the Wood County jail on $200,000 bond ever since.
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