Local Patriots fans say they want their money back, telling ABC Action News a local fan group promised to get them tickets, but never delivered.
Several months ago, a local fan meetup group, Patriots Nation of Tampa Bay, started organizing the purchase of a block of tickets for the Bucs vs. Patriots game on October 5. The aim was to buy the tickets at cost, directly from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Local Patriots fans started sending checks and PayPal orders as early as February to Patriots Nation of Tampa, operated by Andre Brown.
However, dozens of people Sarah Burns, got a message this week saying that the group did not have enough available seats to assign you to them, despite the fact that they had paid for tickets. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were only able to fulfill 1,510 of the seats that the group requested.
Wednesday night, people like Betsy Roller, a teacher in Pinellas County, went to try and pick up her four tickets in person at a local Starbucks. This was a scheduled meet-up to pick up tickets, Roller said.
However, Roller said when she arrived, she was only given two of the four tickets she says she paid for, leaving her hundreds of dollars out of pocket.
"Someone has that money," Roller said. "Because people paid it."
ABC Action News found that back in July, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Group Sales Department had sent an email to Brown, and two other organizers of the event.
It said that Patriots Nation of Tampa Bay had paid for 1,463 seats. However, the email from the Bucs goes on to tell the organizers that they were about $30,000 short for the remaining 147 seats they had requested.
The Bucs Group Sales Department then said they could no longer hold the seats for the group if they didn't get payment by July 14, according to the email.
An email thread between Brown's team shows them expressing major concern.
"We have one day to pay this $30,000+ bill," said one organizer to Brown. "I sure hope we have it in the bank. Andre, please explain to us about this? Did you not know we needed to give more money? I am so confused..."
"Yes, there is money in the bank to cover the bill," Brown replied. " I will address this directly with their office. You will be advised of the outcome."
Brown then sent an email to other organizers, including Deon Bent, who had been volunteering to gather the tickets. She had been creating a massive spreadsheet who showed who paid for what tickets, where they were located and who had received their tickets already. This is what it said in part:
"Regarding the questions of funding... as I advised previously, there appears to be a discrepancy between the number of requested tickets/payments submitted, bank deposits, and Group Sales Office ledger. Due to the priorities of my schedule, I have not had an opportunity to reconcile any of this. However I requested a disbursement of $25,000 from my retirement plan to ensure the group has funding for all activities including the game, pre-game party, and tailgate.
Now while I appreciate all of your efforts to this point in planning for this game and group activities, all of these reactionary emails and text messages is no longer tolerable. My time is extremely limited due to my job which typically requires me to work 60 hours a week along with running a retail business. I do not have time to respond to the numerous chains of emails and text messages. As I was hesitant to do so in the beginning, this effort to bring you ladies into the operations of the group has proven to be a bad idea on my part. I don't every recall a more stressful and dissatisfying time in this group... it has surpassed no longer being fun and just fun place to watch games.
So I plan to return to a more simpler time. I will once again be responsible for all activities/communications for both the Patriots Nation Of Tampa and Red Sox Nation Of Tampa groups. Please do not take any actions on behalf of the groups including event planning, communications to members, or social media posts without my knowledge.
At this time, I have decided to cancel the proposed tailgate and pre-game parties for the game. This event will be scaled down to include just the group attendance at the game. As there has been no public announcement of each, I will draft a letter at a later date regarding the decision not to hold these events."
Bent said Brown was the only one who had access to the bank account, where people had been writing checks to "Patriots Nation of Tampa Bay."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers told ABC Action News told us Brown never had enough money to cover the number of tickets requested.
ABC Action News contacted the Hillsborough County Consumer Protection regarding this and were told this is in their jurisdiction.
People who are without tickets but say they paid for them are now working to gather any information they have, including check stubs and payment information to present to these investigators.
ABC Action News worked to reach Brown, both at his retail shop as well as at his home Thursday.
He responded via text, where he declined to do an on-camera interview.
However, he did say that he does have the money for people who were not able to get tickets and that he is in the process of working with the team to try and secure seats. He said anyone who does not have a ticket for the game will be refunded via check starting October 5th.
"As I have not had any personal communications with any of these individuals during their requests for tickets, I was not involved in that process. My plan is to spend the weekend verifying their payments and any refunds due," he texted to reporter Lauren Rozyla .