Concert Promoter Seeks Leniency for $95 Million Fraud Role

(Bloomberg) -- A concert promoter says he should get less than 2 1/2 years in prison for his role in a $95 million fraud involving blocks of tickets to popular concerts and smash musicals including "Hamilton" -- significantly less than the punishment prosecutors asked a judge to impose.

Joseph Meli, 43, pleaded guilty in October to one count of securities fraud. He’s scheduled to be sentenced March 29. Meli and another man, Steven Simmons, of Wilton, Connecticut, were charged in January 2017. Simmons also pleaded guilty to conspiracy in October and is to be sentenced April 3. He has asked to be spared prison time.

On Friday, Meli asked U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood to give him 21 to 27 months in prison when he is sentenced next week, saying his crime was "totally out of character" for a family man with a lifetime filled with "kindness and good deeds." Prosecutors are asking for a sentence of 78 to 97 months.

The scam was described by prosecutors as a Ponzi scheme in which Meli and two other men told investors their money would be used to buy tickets, but instead it was used to repay earlier investors and they pocketed some of the cash.

"Joe did not calculatingly set out to steal or defraud," his attorneys wrote in their submission to the judge. "Rather, he -- illegally -- shifted risk to unwitting investors by making false statements. This was not the Ponzi scheme it was made out to be in the media reports of his arrest and it was not a ’fictitious business’ where no tickets or ticket deals ever existed and money was simply stolen for selfish reasons."

The case is U.S. v. Simmons, 17-cr-00127, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan.)

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