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‘Wiseguys’ sentenced in multi-million dollar online ticket scam

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

A trio of “Wiseguys” who admitted skirting online security systems and snatching more than 1.5 million primo concert, baseball and theater tickets were sentenced to federal probation and nearly a half-year’s worth of community service today, with one ordered to pony up more than $1.2 million.

Bruce Springsteen

The $25 million worth of tickets the three principle of Wiseguy Tickets Inc. re-sold were for shows by Bruce Springsteen and Hannah Montana, among others, as well as playoff games at Yankee Stadium and Broadway plays.

The California trio — Kenneth Lowson, 41, Kristofer Kirsch, 38 and Joel Stevenson, 38 — were arrested as part of a campaign by state and federal authorities to crack down on scalpers who bleed fans willing to pay anything to see their favorite acts.

Thanks to a computer programmer in Bulgaria, the California boys set up a network of computers out of their Nevada-based headquarters that impersonated individual visitors to Ticketmaster, Telecharge, Tickets.com, MLB.com, MusicToday and LiveNation, among others.

They also created and managed hundreds of fake Internet domains (such as stupidcellphone.com) and thousands of e-mail addresses.

The conspirators then jacked up the prices and sold the tickets to brokers — who, in turn, boosted the costs even higher.

For Springsteen alone, the seven-year operation bought nearly 12,000 tickets in late 2007, according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman in Newark.

Besides swiping tickets for, among others, Bon Jovi, Barbara Streisand, Billy Joel, and Kenny Chesney at the IZOD and the Prudential Center, the ring picked off ducats for “Wicked” and “The Producers,” as well as the 2006 Rose Bowl and 2007 Major League Baseball playoff games at Yankee Stadium.

The other venues are in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston and various other cities.

Neither employees at the company nor ticket vendors who bought through Wiseguys Inc. had any idea what was going on, Fishman said.

Lowson and Kirsch were each sentenced to two years of probation and 300 hours of community service, although Lowson was also ordered to forfeit $1.225 million. Stevenson was sentenced to one year of probation.

Faisal Nahdi, the programmer named in the original federal indictment as a co-conspirator, remains at large.

Fishman credited special agents with the FBI and the United States Postal Inspection Service with making the case, which was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Erez Liebermann and Seth Kosto of his office’s Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Section and Josh Goldfoot of the U.S. Department of Justice.

TicketMaster issued a statement after the sentencing:

“Ticket-scalping has moved from back-alley transactions into a multi-billion dollar industry.  Prosecuting the Wiseguys represents a victory for fans, especially those fans that have paid the astronomical price every time scalpers have used their sophisticated tools or bots to game the system.  On behalf of fans everywhere, we thank law enforcement and the prosecution team for bringing these criminals to justice.”

“This is a positive development, but it represents just one front in the fight against scalping and illegal bots that threaten the fan experience. Ticketmaster is committed to combating scalpers on behalf of the artists, teams, venues and fans we serve. We will continue to work with law enforcement and all others to make sure scalpers who use illegal methods to exploit fans are shut down and prosecuted.”

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