NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES
Jess Harris, of Hot Springs, South Dakota, looked forward to going to a Dallas Cowboys game all his life. So when his wife gave him tickets to the Cowboys-Raiders game last Thursday, it shaped up to be the best Thanksgiving of his life.
Tabatha Harris bought the two-seat package on the Internet a couple of months ago for $738, according to her paid invoice.
The deal, from Maximum Sports Connection, was supposed to include a tailgate party and two tickets to the game.
Maximum Sports, owned by Ronni Sokol, has been the subject of several news stories for pre-selling tickets to Cowboys games to out-of-towners and then not delivering.
At last season's Cowboys-Steelers game, dozens of fans traveled to North Texas only to find themselves seatless.
"Sokol is a joke," Tabatha Harris said. "She's an absolute joke, and she needs to be thrown in jail."
The Harrises received an invoice over the Internet and directions to a tailgate party at the Days Inn in Arlington before Thursday's game. They flew to DFW Airport, booked a hotel, and went to the Days Inn before game time.
There was no one there.
Harris, who looks the part of the rancher that he is, couldn't believe it. "We work hard for our money," he said. "Money doesn't grow on trees for us. For her to take it the easy way is just wrong."
The Harrises had to buy tickets elsewhere, boosting the total cost of their trip from $2,600 to $4,000, they said.
Sokol has a checkered financial past, which includes a current federal tax lien for $28,000, according to Dallas County records. It also includes a healthy list of creditors, one of whom is Howard Beckerman, who said he rented Sokol space for tailgate parties that she never paid for.
Beckerman said he is owed $30,000 for this year and last.
"I'm at the point where I don't care about the money any more," he told News 8. "I just want her put out of business to stop hurting people."
Sokol works out of an unmarked office in Addison. She told News 8 the Harrises were the only two people who didn't get tickets for the Thanksgiving game.
(Bruce Stewart, who flew in for the game from Bangor, Maine, said he paid Sokol $250 for a pre-game event that did not happen as well.)
Sokol explained that the location of her tailgate party changed from the Days Inn, and she had trouble getting permits for another location. She does not say why the location changed. Her customers who bought hotel/ticket packages were switched to three different hotels.
Tearfully, Sokol told News 8 her business has been in trouble for the last three years, and she is trying to pull it together.
"I'm just trying to take care of this the best I can," she said.
"She's very personable," Howard Beckerman said. "She's very convincing, and she makes you feel like this is just an honest mistake. But it's not."
"The entire Dallas Cowboys organization should step up and make sure that that people like this aren't out there," Jess Harris said.
The Dallas Cowboys say they have no control over the resale of their tickets.
Arlington Police said they referred the case to the Texas attorney general's office last year, but never heard back.
Ronni Sokol said she's offering deals to out-of-towners over the Internet for the upcoming Cowboys-Packers game. The packages start at $1,149.