$18K Garlic Fest theft still under investigation

Danny Martin gets a flames as he moves the pan while sauteing red and green pappers and onions for the pepper steak and sausage sandwiches with fellow volunteers Larry Murphy and Manuel Muro at the back of Gourmet Alley Sunday.

Nearly six months after $18,000 went missing from Garlic Festival ticket booths, Gilroy police detectives are still carrying out an open investigation, but remain tight-lipped on any leads or suspects.
“The case is still opened. It is still being investigated,” said Pedro Espinoza, Gilroy Police Administrative Sergeant. “They’re working on leads, but they don’t want to release much information because of fear that it might tip off the person suspected.”
Espinoza added that most embezzlement cases are solved “fairly fast” because business owners have an idea of who the perpetrator is and/or evidence pointing to a particular employee. However, in the Garlic Festival case where there was little to no evidence to start with, officers have to do a lot more legwork to catch the thief.
“It depends on the case, how complex it is,” explained Espinoza.
There was also the matter of 1,000 general admission tickets that disappeared from the Gilroy Garlic Festival office before last year’s event. However, Garlic Festival Executive Director Brian Bowe said only seven stolen tickets were redeemed at the gates which accounted for only a $110 loss. Since it was not a significant amount of money, that investigation is closed.
 Bowe and the Garlic Festival Association have already taken steps to make sure that a mass ticket theft won’t happen again. There will no longer be paper tickets issued. Instead, the Garlic Festival has employed a ticket vendor company, Event Brite, to handle all ticket sales in a new technological way.
“They sell all of our online tickets. They also sell at-the-door tickets for us with a very cool system. It’s an iPad-based system,” explained Bowe. “They make it so simple for our ticket sellers.”
  The ticket process begins with the purchase order from the customer. The ticket seller then checks off the corresponding boxes on their iPad for the number of adults and children tickets requested. The iPad gives them a total amount. The ticket seller then collects the cash or can even swipe the buyer’s credit card right on the iPad, which then prints out a bar-coded receipt and bar-coded ticket on site.
“The other cool thing is each ticket seller will have one of these iPads, so we’ll know exactly how much each ticket volunteer sold and we’ll be able to compare that to each ticket seller’s bag of cash if you will,” said Bowe, who has been with the Garlic Festival Association since 2006.
“So hopefully that will be a deterrent in and of itself. But if it’s not enough of a deterrent at least it will allow us to know where our losses are and who might not have turned in enough cash.”
The Garlic Festival did not have to purchase the iPads. They are supplied by Event Brite as part of their ticket vendor services. There are four ticket booths at the festival with anywhere from three to seven windows in each booth.
“They manage all of these ticket sales aspects. They’ve got the online sales, the at-the-gate sales, all the tracking to do the whole thing,” said Bowe. “We have to stay ahead of the curve and the public deserves to have the best experience that they can.”
Purchases can be made online at www.gilroygarlicfestival.com, at the festival gates, at the Garlic Festival Association office in downtown Gilroy, or at the Gilroy Welcome Center in the outlets.
“This is just one way we’re trying to streamline and make the experience better for the attendee as well,” said Bowe.