Two ticket touts have been jailed after being convicted of fraudulently buying and reselling millions of pounds worth of tickets for high-profile music events.
Peter Hunter, 51, and David Thomas Smith, 66, who traded as Ticket Wiz and BZZ, were sentenced to four years and three months in prison, respectively. They were convicted on three counts of fraudulent trading and one count of possessing an article for fraud earlier this month.
Leeds Crown Court heard the pair used multiple identities and bots to buy £4 million worth of tickets to events such as concerts by Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Madness, McBusted and Liam Gallagher, which they then sold on for £10.8m on resale sites including Viagogo, StubHub and the now defunct Seatwave and Get Me In!
BZZ purchased more than 750 Ed Sheeran tickets in 2017 – despite knowing that their purchases breached the primary sellers’ terms and conditions – and the defendants knowingly continued to resell hundreds of tickets to consumers at inflated prices.
The defendants deployed at least 97 different names, 88 postal addresses and more than 290 email addresses to evade platform restrictions. Emails to the 290-plus email addresses were all auto-forwarded to one email address held by BZZ Limited. The pair used different IP addresses and concealed their IP address to disguise bulk buying.
Industry figures such as Sheeran's manager Stuart Camp and promoter Stuart Galbraith of Kilimanjaro Live gave evidence during the three-month trial - the first prosecution of its kind in the UK - which followed an investigation by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team.
A spokesperson for the FanFair Alliance, which campaigns against industrial-scale online ticket touting, said the case should "send shockwaves" through secondary ticketing businesses that are dependent upon large-scale resellers.
"Today’s sentences represent a major blow to online ticket touts who break the law and rip off the public," said the spokesperson. "It’s a fantastic result for National Trading Standards and for music lovers across the UK.
"By facilitating the activities of online touts, there must be concerns that the platforms themselves are profiting from the sale of tickets unlawfully acquired by their biggest suppliers.This should be investigated as a matter of urgency, and lead to action against those platforms if they have benefited from the proceeds of criminality."