Joseph Meli, the man accused of executing a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that lured investors in with promises of substantial profits from the resale of tickets to the Broadway hit “Hamilton” and other big shows pleaded guilty Tuesday to security fraud, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York announced.
“As he admitted in court today, Joseph Meli created his own theatrical production—a fictitious business that purported to have access to blocks of tickets to Broadway shows and other events,” Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said in a statement. “In fact, Meli was deceiving investors into giving him money that he pocketed to fund his own extravagant lifestyle. Now he awaits sentencing for running a Ponzi scheme.”
Meli was first charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in January with violations of securities laws. Criminal charges were brought against him and a co-defendant by the Department of Justice February, charging them with two counts of wire fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy to commit both.
According to prosecutors, beginning in 2015, Meli sought investors to further multiple Ponzi schemes, according to prosecutors. Ultimately, Meli would bring in approximately $95 million from about 130 investors between 2015 and early 2017 in a Ponzi scheme of his own, prosecutors say.
Meli told investors that he had an inside agreement with production and management companies to purchase bulk tickets for events. As detailed in the SEC’s complaint, Meli told investors he had secured access to tickets to some of the most popular entertainment events, such as the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” for which Meli claimed to have 35,000 tickets.
Meli had no such arrangement for tickets.
A substantial portion of the investments secured by Meli went to repay previous investors in his venture as well as those in an unrelated hedge fund as part of the overall Ponzi scheme. He also misappropriated the funds for personal use, such as the purchase of a $3 million home in East Hampton, and a new Porsche.
Among those ensnared in the scheme was former WFAN sports radio host Craig Carton. Carton was arrested and charged by the SEC for securing investor funds in the ticket selling scheme to help pay off gambling debts.
In a statement, Kasowitz Benson Torres partner Daniel Fetterman, who presents Meli, said he was pleased that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had agreed to downgrade charges to a single count, and that his client “looks forward to putting the case involving his ticket reselling business behind him.”