Industry News

Hamilton Ponzi schemer ‘should get 6-8 years in prison’

The US Attorney’s Office is arguing that 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, should be sentenced to up to eight years in prison.

The term matches federal sentencing guidelines following Meli’s October plea to one count of wire fraud. However, his attorneys had asked for only two years in prison, part of which could be served on house arrest.

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.

Assistant US Attorney Brendan Quigley filed a lengthy sentencing memorandum Wednesday arguing that Meli operated a Ponzi scheme using new investor money to pay back old investors and allegedly used funds to purchase a house in the Hamptons, finance a Porsche and buy high-end clothing and jewellery.

“Meli’s conduct was not ‘aberrant,’ nor did it involve an isolated ‘lapse in judgment,’” Quigley wrote in the memorandum. “Instead, over a period of years and right up until the time of his arrest, Meli used lies and phony documents to induce over 100 individuals and entities to give him over $100 million dollars.”

Meli’s attorney submitted a sentencing memorandum arguing that while his client did use fake documents to induce investors into handing over millions for a Metallica deal, he was actively in talks with the band’s management, although ultimately he couldn’t reach a deal.

Amplify Mag reported that the band’s manager Peter Mensch at Q Prime said: “This whole thing is preposterous. A fantasy and a fiction.”

The band’s two main promoters — Live Nation and Frank Productions — also denied having ever met or sold tickets to Meli. According to Amplify, a source familiar with Meli’s efforts to procure concert tickets for large scale resale said “he never bought tickets ever, it was all about raising money.”

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