Joseph Meli, who was accused of defrauding 130 investors out of $95m (€82m) in a Ponzi scheme around the resale of tickets to broadway show ‘Hamilton’ and other events, has struck a plea deal.
Meli pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of securities fraud after previously pleading not guilty to five counts of fraud and conspiracy.
Meli and his two associates allegedly convinced investors that they were able to purchase Hamilton tickets in bulk through their claimed relationship with the producer of the Broadway smash hit. He said he would then be able to sell the tickets on the secondary market for inflated prices to generate a handsome profit.
Meli and his associates would pay off older investors with the investments of new ones – the classic structure of a Ponzi scheme.
Meli is due to face a reduced sentence of between six-and-a-half and just over eight years in January. If he received the maximum sentence on each of the five charges, Meli was looking at 85 years in prison and tens of millions of dollars in fines.
The plea agreement came eight days after the filing of a motion by Meli’s attorney accusing the government of gathering some of the information for its case in a way that violated New York’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
Dan Fetterman, Meli’s attorney, accused the government of using its confidential witness in the case to elicit “a series of rambling, contradictory statements” from Meli, in the absence of his attorney. In his motion Fetterman writes the tactic violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, as noted by The Hollywood Reporter.
The office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York declined a request for more information, but did issue a press release on Meli’s plea.
“Mr Meli is pleased that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has agreed to dismiss the charges against him concerning the Sentinel Ponzi scheme,” Fetterman says in a statement provided to NPR. “He looks forward to putting the case involving his ticket reselling business behind him.”