NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES
"Cowboy Fans Welcome. Others Not Allowed"
That's what the sign hanging over the door of the den at the Fuller house in Memphis, Tennessee says.
For a decade, the annual event for the Fullers and dozens of friends has been a junket from Memphis to North Texas to see a Cowboys game.
"Starting in January, we start planning for the next year," Kevin Fuller said.
In 2012, it was supposed to be Cowboys vs. Steelers in December.
After forking over $10,500 to Maximum Sports Connection in three installments, 42 Fullers and friends arrived at Cowboys Stadium in their chartered bus on December 16, after spending the previous night in a hotel.
Katherine Fuller, the matriarch of the family who arranged the trip, said when the group arrived at the Maximum Sports tailgate party, a Maximum employee told her, "You don't have any tickets. You got a choice. You can get all your money back. Or you can get standup passes (Party Passes) and a ticket to next year's game."
No one accepted the Party Pass.
As for the next year's game promise, many of the Pittsburgh fans on the bus found that unacceptable, because the Steelers play the Cowboys only once every four years, and the two wouldn't meet in Dallas for another eight years.
And the Fullers weren't the only ones turned away.
"I counted 10 buses," said Darryl Eason, who was on the Fullers' bus. "I went and asked a bus driver that was already there. He said, 'They don't have no tickets for you all, because they didn't have any for us.'"
A map of fans who say they were left seat-less by Maximum Sports stretches across the country: Los Angeles, Albuquerque, El Paso, Houston, San Antonio, Canada, Chicago, Louisville, Pennsylvania and even a couple from France.
"People would get off the bus. Go around and talk to the [Maximum] guy. Get on the bus, turn around and leave," Eason said.
The Fuller group suspects Maximum Sports owner Ronni Sokol sold their tickets to someone else as the Pittsburgh-Dallas game became more important in the season.
"That's exactly what happened," Kevin Fuller said.
Sokol declined to be interviewed on camera by News 8; nor would she disclose where her office is located. She said she "lost control of the Steeler game," something she's "never done before."
She said she wasn't sure how many people she sold tickets for the game, but would get back to us with the exact number.
She did not.
Sokol told us some complainants in Houston had received refunds.
We contacted them. They had not.
Sokol told us the Fullers were told before the game they would only get Party Pass tickets, and she'd promised to provide a signed receipt from Katherine Fuller to prove Ms. Fuller had agreed to it.
Sokol did not produce the receipt.
Sammy Irving, who was one of the fans in the Fullers' bus, finds it difficult to believe the incident was all an unfortunate mistake.
"I think it was greed," he said. "She saw us coming, and once we left Dallas, we weren't going to contact her any more."
The geographic spread of the victims has made it difficult for law enforcement agencies. Arlington police and the Texas Attorney General say they haven't received enough complaints to begin action yet.
Maximum Sports Connection still has an active website, selling tickets for the 2013-14 Cowboys season.