Fraudsters made £7m profit by bulk buying then reselling concert tickets


Fraudsters made £7m profit by bulk buying then reselling concert tickets

Fraudsters who made £7m in profits by using special software to buy thousands of concert tickets then resold them at vast prices have been convicted in the first case of its kind.

Peter Hunter, 51, and David Smith, 66, used a sophisticated computer programme to make high speed purchases, acquiring £4m worth of tickets from primary seller websites between June 2015 and December 2017.

The pair, who live together in north London, then sold them on at vastly inflated prices on secondary seller websites such as Viagogo. They made a total of £10.8m from the sales.

Artists whose concerts they profited from included Gary Barlow, Coldplay and The Killers, as well as television shows including Eurovision, The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing.

Hunter and Smith were today found guilty of three counts of fraudulent trading and one count of possessing an article for use in fraud following a three-month trial at Leeds Crown Court.

This is the first time bulk ticket resellers have been successfully prosecuted in the UK.

It comes after National Trading Standards, the consumer watchdog, began investigating bulk reselling on the internet – an industry worth around £700m – in 2017.

Jonathan Sandiford, prosecuting, previously told the jury that Hunter and Smith were “dishonest fraudsters motivated by greed”.

They bought around 1,000 tickets every 72 hours and advertised them on secondary seller websites almost immediately.

To disguise their bulk buying, which is not permitted by many websites, they used 97 fake names linked to 88 addresses. These identities were linked to multiple email addresses, credit cards and mobile numbers.  

The practice has been criticised for edging out genuine punters who want to see performances and making them pay much more to obtain tickets.

Hunter, who used to be a chef, said he realised how lucrative it was when a waitress he worked with asked him to buy four Madonna concert tickets for her, as she didn’t have a credit card.

He ended up buying 10 for £50 each and sold them on for double the price using eBay.

He and Smith advertised Ed Sheeran tickets online for almost three times their face value, buying up more than 1,000 for £79,000 and reselling them for £222,000.

Ben Douglas-Jones QC, who represented Hunter during the trial, argued that his client was a trusted and reliable seller who provided a valuable service to people who missed the often very slim window of opportunity to buy tickets on primary seller websites.

Mr Douglas-Jones told the jury: “We live in a society where things are bought and sold. They are only sold at a price which people are willing to pay for them.”

Hunter and Smith, both of Crossfield Road, north London, will be sentenced on Feb 24.

Experts react to landmark case

Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards, said: “Millions of people spend their hard-earned money on tickets such as music concerts and sporting events each year.

“Buying a ticket in good faith and then discovering it is part of a dishonest fraud can be deeply distressing and can have a considerable financial impact on consumers.

“This is a landmark case for National Trading Standards and should reassure consumers that the fraudulent practices of secondary ticket sellers will no longer be tolerated.

“I hope this prosecution leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.”

FanFair Alliance, which campaigns against illegal ticket touting, said the case shone a light on the “murky world of secondary ticketing”.

Adam Webb, campaign manager, said: “We strongly suspect Peter Hunter and David Smith are not exceptional, and that other suppliers to these sites may also acquire tickets by unlawful means – no questions asked.

“Given the outcome of this case, it is now urgent that National Trading Standards are resourced to increase the scope of their investigations, and for the Competition & Markets Authority to apply further scrutiny towards the secondary ticketing market overall.”

Jonathan Brown, chief executive of The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR), said: “Today’s verdict sets a hugely significant and useful precedent in the fight against ticket fraud.

“Our members worked closely with National Trading Standards to compile the evidence used to secure the conviction and we are pleased they were able to play a role in protecting ticket buyers.”

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