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New York man pleads guilty to 'Hamilton' show ticket scheme

New York man pleads guilty to 'Hamilton' show ticket scheme
November 1, 2017

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to defrauding investors in a fake ticket reselling business for popular events, including the popular Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

Joseph Meli, 43, pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses, according to the office of Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim in Manhattan.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop charges that Meli helped run a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors in a hedge fund, Sentinel Growth Fund Management.

“Mr. Meli is pleased that (Kim’s office) has agreed to dismiss the charges against him concerning the Sentinel Ponzi scheme, and he looks forward to putting the case involving his ticket reselling business behind him,” Meli’s lawyer, Daniel Fetterman, said in a statement.

The plea came about a week after Meli’s lawyers at the law firm of Kasowitz Benson Torres moved to keep some of the prosecutors’ evidence out of the case, saying it was obtained through “unethical” misconduct.

Specifically, they said Sentinel founder Mark Varacchi, who has pleaded guilty to criminal charges and cooperated with prosecutors, lured Meli away from his attorney as part of a sting operation, despite Meli’s repeated insistence that they only speak at Kasowitz’s office.

James Margolin, a spokesman for Joon’s office, declined to comment on the motion.

Authorities had accused Meli of lying to more than a hundred investors who put tens of millions of dollars into his business, telling them he would use the money to buy large blocks of tickets for events including “Hamilton” and a concert by the singer Adele.

In fact, authorities said, Meli took much of the money for himself, using it to pay for a $3 million house in East Hampton, New York, a 2017 Porsche convertible and expensive watches. They said he paid some investors back with later investors’ money in a Ponzi-like scheme.

Meli’s plea came the day after another man accused of taking part in the fraud against Sentinel investors, Steven Simmons, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy.