Action News Investigation: Couple allegedly exploited autistic son in ticket scheme

Ryan Van Laeys fears the suspects could strike again.

ByChad Pradelli and Cheryl Mettendorf WPVI logo
Friday, February 10, 2023
Investigation: Man warns of ticket scheme before Super Bowl 57
Scam warning: Ryan Van Laeys said he lost thousands of dollars in a ticket scheme during the World Series and fears the suspects could strike again.

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- As the clock ticks to Super Bowl Sunday, there will likely be some fans buying last-minute tickets.

But one man who spoke to Action News says to beware of scams.

Ryan Van Laeys said he lost thousands of dollars in a ticket scheme during the World Series and fears the suspects could strike again.

"I just don't understand how people like this can rest their head on their pillow at night," he said.

Van Laeys said he found tickets available on Facebook from a man named Norman Stevenson and a woman he claimed was his wife, Janet.

"He was very quick to give his phone number, which was a good sign that there wasn't anything shady going on," he added.

The couple, from Thomson, Georgia, told him they were in Atlantic City and had tickets through the charitable organization Autism for Life that they created for their adult autistic son.

They met at Caesars Casino.

"They said that they basically acquired these tickets through organizations who then allow them to sell them to benefit the charity," he said.

Van Laeys said he paid $8,300 cash for four tickets, which he immediately transferred through the MLB app. A few hours later, he said Norman called him again and said he had more tickets. Van Laeys sent the couple a Venmo an additional $2,800.

But Van Laeys said the following day and just a few hours before going to Citizens Bank Park his tickets disappeared from his Major League Baseball app.

He called customer service who said the credit card used by the couple when they bought the tickets was stolen.

"So recent that the credit card companies hadn't even caught on yet," said Van Laeys. "And when they did, they notified Major League Baseball who retracted the tickets."

The Stevensons have another charity called "Traveling with Autism" and frequently post social media videos on TikTok and YouTube of their travels to sporting events.

Van Laeys tried to reach the Stevensons but he said they went dark. He then called Atlantic City police and an investigation was launched.

Police charged Norman Stevenson Thursday with Theft by Deception.

Van Laeys created a website exposing the Stevensons and their alleged fraud to warn others.

In the end, he is still out more than $10,000.

"I would think that this Super Bowl for them is going to be a good opportunity to, you know, pull this on someone else, which is ultimately why I'm talking about it," he said.

The Action News investigative team tried to reach the couple but our calls went unanswered. Text messages with them ended once we identified ourselves.

Norman Stevenson is expected in court next month.