Bogus brunch event scams local diners

Katy Willdigg's tickets for a brunch in Kearny Mesa that turned out to be bogus.

SAN DIEGO — Would-be diners in San Diego who thought they were paying upwards of $80 for a special brunch ended up frustrated and confused Saturday when the event turned out to be bogus.

Katy Willdigg, a local who found out about an event called the “Brunch Famous Celebration” through Facebook, told FOX 5 she bought tickets for the brunch after finding it listed on multiple sites and learning the event was validated by Paypal.

“Guests will enjoy a Party themed Brunch event complete with a 180 minute VIP Buffet Bar of 44 Brunch Themed Items including Pancakes./Waffle, Omelet Station, Prime Rib and choice cut meats along with Mexican and Asian stations,” online promotions promised, inconsistent punctuation included. Guests also had the option of adding $20 for bottomless champagne.

A flyer advertises a special brunch event set for 22 cities. But the San Diego event never took place — and similar stories played out elsewhere.

When Willdigg received her tickets, they listed the event at Encore Event Center in Kearny Mesa on Feb. 16. But when she looked up the event Friday night, she found the Brunch Famous website had disappeared. She also could no longer access the e-tickets she had already printed.

That’s when Willdigg discovered more warning signs online — listings placing the event at a different address in San Diego, the Del Mar Fairgrounds, and online accounts of people signing up for similar events in Sacramento and Birmingham only to find they didn’t exist.

The Sacramento State Police Department even posted a consumer alert about a bogus event by the same name in January:

Disappointed, Willdigg decided not to show up for the event. Later, she saw accounts on social media of disappointed diners showing up in Del Mar and discovering there was no brunch there, either.

FOX 5 called Encore Event Center Saturday and reached an employee who said a company called “Expo Network” booked a room with them for the brunch and sent a deposit check, but the check bounced and Encore never heard from Expo again. Online searches for that company — with or without connection to brunch events — do not return any obvious leads.

The event’s website remained down Saturday night. Listings for similar events in Phoenix and Chicago┬ástill exist on ticket sites, though they also direct to Brunch Famous’ now defunct website. They boast of a delicious brunch prepared by the renowned “Executive Chef Olive Johnson” who also cannot be found referenced online in anything other than Brunch Famous advertisements.

FOX 5’s Tyra Wu contributed to this report.

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