May 31, 2017 / 7:13 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 2-'Hamilton' redux: New York man charged in $70 mln ticket scheme

3 Min Read

(Adds details of charges, bail conditions)

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK, May 31 (Reuters) - A New York man has been criminally charged with running a $70 million Ponzi scheme centered on the fake resale of tickets to events including football's Super Bowl, soccer's World Cup, the U.S. Open tennis tournament and the Broadway musical "Hamilton."

The arrest of Jason Nissen, 44, of Roslyn, on Long Island, came 14 years after he was caught selling tickets to students for a Dave Matthews Band concert at the Queens, New York high school where he then taught math. The concert was actually free.

Nissen's case is the second since January alleging that investors were defrauded over ticket sales to "Hamilton" and other popular events.

Prosecutors said Nissen, the chief executive of New York-based National Event Co, lured investors since 2015 by promising to buy and resell tickets profitably.

They said he diverted much of the money to enrich himself and repay earlier investors, using falsified documents and inflated accounts receivable ledgers, with the help of Photoshop, to conceal his fraud.

Victims included a private equity firm that invested $40 million, and a Manhattan diamond wholesaler that has recouped only half of the $32 million it lent, prosecutors said.

Nissen faces one count of wire fraud and up to 20 years in prison. He was released on $250,000 bond.

His lawyer, Michael Bachner, declined to comment.

Prosecutors said Nissen admitted his scheme to two victims.

He allegedly told an executive at the diamond wholesaler in a May 7 phone call discussing a cache of "Hamilton" tickets that "some of it was real and some of it was fake... The numbers are just all multiplied."

The next day, at a videotaped meeting with the executive and the wholesaler's chief financial officer, Nissen said he would go to jail if they did not provide more money, prosecutors said.

Court papers described the conversation.

"You were running a Ponzi scheme," the CFO said.

"I guess you want to call it... I was borrowing from Peter to pay Paul," Nissen responded.

"Yeah. That's the definition of a Ponzi."

In the other "Hamilton" case, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil charges accusing Joseph Meli and Matthew Harriton of running a $97 million scam involving at least 138 investors.

Both have denied wrongdoing. Meli and another defendant were separately charged in a related criminal case.

The Nissen case is U.S. v. Nissen, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-mag-04096. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Dan Grebler)

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