'Greedy' ticket touts who made millions are jailed
‘Greedy’ ticket touts who made millions from reselling concert tickets to events such as Ed Sheeran and Adele are jailed
- Peter Hunter and David Smith used bots to illegally buy £17million of tickets
- They then sold them on various websites for £26million over a seven year period
- The fraudsters also sold tickets to West End shows and NFL matches in London
Two ‘greedy’ touts who raked in a staggering £9million profit by reselling tickets to high-profile events including Ed Sheeran and Adele gigs have been jailed for a total of six and a half years.
Peter Hunter and David Smith used multiple identities and computer bots to illegally buy £17m worth of tickets, which they then sold on for £26m over a seven year period.
Prosecutors said the fraudsters – who are in a civil partnership – deprived ‘thousands’ of genuine fans the opportunity to buy the tickets at face value and then distort the market.
They used computer software and fake names to scoop up ‘hundreds’ of tickets that they then sold on for ‘more than twice’ the face value, the court heard.
David Smith, 51, left, and Peter Hunter, 66, right, arrive at Leeds Crown Court today
The fraudsters, who traded under the company names Ticket Wiz and BZZ, also sold tickets to West End shows like Harry Potter And The Cursed Child and NFL matches in London.
Hunter, 51, and Smith, 66, did their business on the ‘big four’ secondary ticketing sites – Viagogo, GetMeIn, StubHub and Seatwave – at inflated prices.
Tickets used in evidence against David Smith and Peter Hunter at Leeds Crown Court
Both men were found guilty of three counts of fraudulent trading and one count of possession of articles to be used with fraud after a three month trial at Leeds Crown Court.
The landmark prosecution was the first of its kind in the UK since National Trading Standards began investigating the reselling of tickets on the internet in 2017.
Ed Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp gave evidence in December, when he said he had spotted £75 seats for a charity gig on sale for a shocking £7,000.
Jonathan Sandiford, prosecuting, told the court today that the pair roped in friends and family to provide their names and banks details to buy tickets to sell on.
He told the court that between May 2010 and December 2017, the pair spent £17,016,585 on tickets, which they sold on for £26,391,695.
He said the scam was ‘sophisticated’ and the fact that the pair used computer software to create bots to bypass limits on how many tickets they could buy was an aggravating factor.
The fraudsters, who traded under the company names Ticket Wiz and BZZ, also sold tickets to West End shows like Harry Potter And The Cursed Child , NFL matches in London and Ed Sheeran gigs (pictured)
They also used fake names to buy up tickets ‘en masse’ to be re-sold above their market value.
The court heard the pair discussed not listing too many tickets for sale at one time so as to generate the highest price for them on secondary sale websites.
Mr Sandiford told the court: ‘The defendants were the principal organisers and beneficiaries of the fraudulent behaviour reflected by counts one to four.
‘The motive for the offences was greed and financial gain.
‘The business model used by Ticket Wizz and BZZ Limited was fraudulent from the outset – using multiple identities to conceal that it was the company that was purchasing tickets from consumer facing websites for commercial resale.’
Ben Douglas-Jones QC, defending Hunter, said the company had made more than 20,000 sales on eBay and had more than 12,000 positive reviews with just one negative rating.
The ticket touts also sold tickets for singing sensation Adele’s shows. Pictured: Adele performing at Glastonbury in June 2016
He said: ‘This is far removed from fraud in the conventional sense.
‘Have you every heard of a consumer-based fraud where the consumers are so happy they are giving five star reviews for speed, accuracy and value?
‘They were reviewing him positively for the value of the tickets that he was selling plainly as a secondary ticket seller.’
Matthew Lawson, for Smith, said: ‘This was Mr Hunter’s business and Mr Smith, being his partner – not in the business sense, but in the life sense – working from home, in his study, would help out with the business when needed.
‘The overwhelming evidence demonstrated it was Hunter who ran the business.’
Judge Mushtaq Khokhar praised Smith, the former news editor of the Gay Times, for his work in promoting LGBT rights and Hunter for his previous good character.
Hunter was sentenced to four years in prison and Smith was sentenced to 30 months behind bars.
Judge Khokar said: ‘The terms and conditions of the primary selling sites made it clear they should not be bought for commercial purposes.
‘You bought hundreds of tickets at any given time and re-sold them for more than twice the price.
‘You have used the company for a fraudulent purpose to make gains for yourself.
‘A lot of people in this case paid a lot more than they could have paid.
‘It gives me no pleasure to pass these sentences, but I have to do my public duty.’
Speaking after the hearing, Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: ‘This is an important milestone in the fight to tackle online ticket touts who fraudulently buy and resell tickets to thousands of victims to line their own pockets.
‘Today’s sentences send a strong message to similar online ticket touts: these are criminal offences that can lead to prison sentences.
‘I hope this leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.
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