Two charged in Ponzi case tied to tickets for ‘Hamilton,’ Adele

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By Jonathan Stempel

<span class="articleLocation”>U.S. authorities on Friday unveiled criminal
charges against two men accused of running a Ponzi scheme that
swindled investors in a purported ticket-reselling business for
popular events, such as Adele concerts and the smash Broadway
musical “Hamilton.”

Joseph Meli and Steven Simmons were arrested on Friday, and
criminally charged with securities fraud, wire fraud and
conspiracy, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Preet
Bharara in Manhattan.

Meli and another defendant, Matthew Harriton, were also
charged in a related U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
civil case, as were two companies known as Advance Entertainment
that one or both controlled.

Lawyers for the defendants could not immediately be
identified.

Authorities said the defendants raised millions of dollars
from investors who thought they were helping fund the purchase
of large blocks of tickets for major concerts and musicals that
could be resold profitably, providing double-digit returns.

But according to the SEC, only a small portion of the $81
million raised from at least 125 investors in 13 U.S. states
went toward the ticket resale business.

The SEC said at least $48 million was used to repay earlier
investors, while other sums were spent on jewelry, private
school tuition, gambling at Atlantic City casinos, and other
personal expenses.

Court papers quote Meli as having told an alleged fellow
schemer, who decided to cooperate with prosecutors, in a
December 30 phone call that “it would be impossible for anyone
on planet earth unless you told them … to know what we did.”

“Hamilton” won 11 Tony Awards last year, including for best
musical.

The cases are U.S. v. Simmons et al, U.S. District Court,
Southern District of New York, No. 17-mag-00647; and SEC v Meli
et al in the same court, No. 17-00632.



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