- Video report by ITV News Reporter Chloe Keedy
Two internet touts who resold tickets worth millions of pounds to high-profile events such as Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift concerts have been told by a judge they could be jailed following a landmark trial.
Peter Hunter and David Smith – who traded as Ticket Wiz and BZZ – used multiple identities and computer bots to buy £4 million worth of tickets over two-and-a-half years, selling them on secondary ticketing websites for £10.8 million, prosecutors told Leeds Crown Court.
The married pair harvested tens of thousands of tickets to high-profile music concerts and West End hits like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp gave evidence in the pair’s long-running trial, telling jurors they had decided to take a stand against touts after spotting £75 seats at a Sheeran charity gig on sale for £7,000.
National Trading Standards (NTS) said Hunter and Smith bought more than 750 tickets for Ed Sheeran concerts alone in 2017.
An NTS spokesman said it was “a landmark case” that marks “the first successful prosecution against a company fraudulently reselling tickets on a large scale”.
During a three-month long trial, which ended on Thursday with unanimous guilty verdicts on all counts, prosecution barristers said the pair harvested tickets using a range of techniques.
When their north London home was raided, investigators found 112 different payment cards in 37 different names.
NTS said Hunter and Smith deployed at least 97 different names, 88 postal addresses and more than 290 email addresses to evade platform restrictions.
A jury found the pair guilty of three counts of fraudulent trading, which related to a range of practices including falsely representing their identifies when buying tickets and failing to inform consumers buying tickets that they were at risk of being refused entry.
But the charges also specified they were guilty of “fraudulently reducing the number of event tickets available for consumers to purchase at face value”.
The pair were also found guilty of spec-selling – which is selling tickets they did not own.
Hunter and Smith were also convicted of possessing an article for fraud, which related to the computer bots and Insomniac web browser they used to mask IP addresses.
The court heard how the pair sold the tickets on secondary ticketing sites, including the “big four” – Viagogo, GetMein, StubHub and Seatwave – at inflated prices.
Jonathan Sandiford, prosecuting, told the jury Hunter and Smith were “dishonest fraudsters motivated by greed”.
But Hunter and Smith argued they did nothing wrong.
Hunter’s defence team told the jury they were a trusted and reliable source of tickets and pointed to the thousands of positive reviews Hunter had when he started out selling on eBay.
Ben Douglas-Jones QC, for Hunter, said his client was no more greedy than other businessman providing a service.
Mr Douglas-Jones said his client did not shirk from the fact that some of his actions breached terms and conditions of the primary ticket sellers.
But he said this did not constitute a criminal offence and told the juror it was known across the industry that many of the T&Cs were unenforceable.
He told the jury: “We live in a society where things are bought and sold. They are only sold at a price which people are willing to pay for them.”
Colin Rumford, head of regional investigations for National Trading Standards’ e-crime team, described the verdicts as “a landmark decision”, saying Hunter and Smith were “leading players” in the internet touting world.
Ticket fraud expert Reg Walker said the convictions should spark a wider criminal investigation into the reselling of tickets and the major secondary websites.
Hunter, 51, and Smith, 66, of Crossfield Road, north London, were told by judge Mushtaq Khokhar they will be sentenced on Monday February 24 at 2pm.
He said: “Just because I’m granting you bail does not mean to say that a custodial sentence is not open to the court.”
The judge ordered both men to surrender their passports.