In November, text messages show Tartt began communicating with Shah, with whom he connected through a mutual friend. He and two others told police they started making $5,000 payments to Shah as regular deposits on $20,000 worth of tickets.
But when it came time to meet late this month, Tartt said he couldn't reach Shah. He went to Sandy Springs police, the FBI and his bank to file reports.
Records show Shah’s mother also contacted police, saying she’d lost $36,000 in the scam, but declined to press charges. Four other metro Atlanta men filed one theft by deception report on Shah, citing similar lost amounts in ticket purchases.
“It was a similar promise to all the other people who bought tickets,” said Minish Shah, who is not related to Ketan Shah but knows him well through the community. “One hundred level seating with access to the concierge lounge and a few pre-parties. I find the whole situation kind of bizarre, and hopefully, there will be some kind of logical explanation."
Another Duluth man and his brother-in-law from Ohio also said they’d paid $20,000 and never received tickets this month. An Alpharetta man reported a similar experience to police.
But the biggest loss recorded was a $500,000 payment made to Shah by a friend and businessman in Columbus, Georgia, who said he was promised tickets and a chance to host an arena Super Bowl event.
“Right now, what we know of is just slightly over three quarters of a million dollars scammed out for Super Bowl-related stuff,” said Cpl. Wilbert Rundles, a Gwinnett County police spokesperson.
“It’s not that he posted some ad and random people are contacting this guy for tickets and being scammed,” Rundles continued. “He’s known these people for many years. One of them, he’s known his whole life because it’s his own mother, and he’s taken advantage of them.”
Carr went to Shah’s Digital Xpress business in Norcross and found his wife, Bhavi, who broke down in tears.
“Do you know where he is?” Carr asked, as Bhavi Shah shook her head.
“He’s been roaming all over the town,” she replied. “I really don’t know where he is now. I really don’t, I’m sorry.”
Police records show Bhavi Shah told authorities that her husband had recently taken out a half-million dollar loan against the business without his wife’s knowledge. She also told police she knew nothing of the alleged ticket scam.
“I’m not ready to have this conversation, I’m sorry,” Bhavi Shah said when Carr asked about the loan.
According to those records, his family believes Shah traveled to Las Vegas at some point, as part of a midlife crisis, but it’s unclear where he could be now. Gwinnett investigators said they want to hear his side of this story, especially if the tickets are not delivered by Sunday.
“We’d certainly like to get his side and see if there’s something more ... some trouble that he’s been in,” Rundles said. “It’s a very odd situation that you would take people this close to you and scam this kind of money -- any money -- but especially this large of an amount, and then just disappear."