NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge sentenced a New York City man to 6-1/2 years in prison on Tuesday, after he had pleaded guilty to defrauding investors in a sham ticket-reselling business for popular events, including the Broadway smash “Hamilton.”
Joseph Meli, the defendant, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood in Manhattan to make $58.8 million of restitution to his victims.
“These weren’t mistakes,” and the investors’ loss was “enormously serious,” Wood told a packed courtroom.
She quoted a recorded statement Meli made before his January 2017 arrest, in which he admitted to running a “shell game,” and “taking money from one guy to pay off the other guy.”
Wood had sentenced a co-defendant, Steven Simmons, to three years, one month in prison earlier on Tuesday.
Meli, 43, pleaded guilty in October to securities fraud, for having in written agreements with investors exaggerated his ability to get tickets for such events as “Hamilton” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” on Broadway, and concerts by Adele, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Katy Perry, court papers show.
As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped charges that Meli helped run a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors in a hedge fund, Sentinel Growth Fund Management.
Prosecutors accused Meli of spending some of his investors’ money on himself, including purchasing a 2017 Porsche convertible and a home in East Hampton, New York.
Before being sentenced, Meli, who is married and has four sons, told the judge in a firm voice he was “profoundly sorry” for “my mistakes,” often turning to the courtroom audience behind him when speaking.
His lawyer Daniel Fetterman sought an approximate two-year prison term, stressing his client’s “exemplary life of charity and kindness and commitment to others.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Quigley countered that leniency was not justified. “He wasn’t charitable, he wasn’t generous, and he wasn’t kind to his investors,” Quigley said.
Meli is also a defendant in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission civil lawsuit accusing him and Craig Carton, a former co-host of the “Boomer & Carton” sports radio show with retired football quarterback Boomer Esiason, of falsely claiming to investors they had access to large blocks of concert tickets.
Carton also faces related criminal charges.
Last week, former Queens high school teacher Jason Nissen pleaded guilty in the Manhattan court to soliciting investments in an unrelated fake ticket resale business.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler