DES MOINES, Iowa — Marty Tirrell has been a fixture on Iowa radios and televisions for decades. But federal prosecutors say the sports talk show host was also running a ticket scheme that took advantage of investors.
Tirrell is facing six charges of fraud in federal court including mail, device, wire and bank fraud. Prosecutors say he stole 1.5 million dollars from investors in his ticket business and made fraudulent claims of unauthorized transactions on his bank account.
Chris Shipley says his father Melvin was taken advantage of in 1997 and never recovered.
The elder Shipley ran a small computer sales and repair business in Des Moines. Chris says they advertised on Tirrell’s radio show. He says Tirrell approached them about advertising for his coverage of the upcoming rematch between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.
“We were going to a lot of advertising spots for that leading up to it, in addition we would be flown out to the event and have tickets to the event” said Shipley.
Melvin agreed to the deal and wrote a check for $5,000 and plans were made. About a month later, Chris says, Marty had another opportunity for them.
“Marty would be able to buy some Super Bowl travel packages and they would be able to turn around and sell those packages later in the year for profit and split the profit” said Shipley.
Again, Melvin agreed, this time signing a check for $10,000. Chris says his father was excited, at least until the fight rolled around.
“When we showed up at the MGM Grand he was nowhere to be found, wouldn’t answer his phone. We walked all over that casino trying to find him, probably for three hours. It was clear and obvious that he had done a number on us” said Shipley.
Chris says it was also obvious his dad would never see the Super Bowl tickets. He waited for Tirrell at the airport the next day where he says the radio host claimed to have not seen them in the hotel. Chris says they never heard from him again. They pursued legal action and had to settle for about $4,000. Chris says his dad could never recover from the $11,000 loss.
“That threw him into a pretty bad depression. We closed the business a few years later. I think the hardest thing for me was to watch my dad after that because he was so proud of the work that he did and he never really had anything and that was the first real successful thing that he had, and he was good at it” said Chris.
Melvin Shipley died in 2011. Looking back on it, Chris says Tirrell was good at what he allegedly did.
“I think he was charismatic, he was very charismatic. He could talk to you on a level and I think he sensed a lot of things for my dad, that he maybe didn’t have and would dangle those things in front of people like that. The opportunity and selling hope and things like that; all while knowing he was never going to fulfill that. I think there is a bit of some evilness there” said Shipley.
Shipley says it’s been frustrating hearing Tirrell on the radio since then but takes some solace in the charges he says were 22 years too late.
“It just seems like a little vindication for my dad. That finally, what he did to him and to a lot of other people is finally going to come to fruition. It makes me feel better, but I don’t take any pleasure from it” said Chris.
Chris Shipley is just one of several alleged victims Channel 13 spoke with.