A promoter and ticket-broker who masterminded a Ponzi scheme that swindled investors out of $100 million and used some of the proceeds to buy a $3 million Hamptons mansion, was sentenced to 78 months in prison in Manhattan federal court Tuesday, officials said.
Joseph Meli, 43, of Manhattan, allegedly convinced more than 100 investors that he had access to blocks of hard-to-get tickets for events ranging from shows like “Hamilton” to concerts of Adele and the Grateful Dead. But the deals were fake and he spent the proceeds on himself or to pay back other investors, officials said.
He pleaded guilty last year. In addition to 6 1⁄2 years in prison, Manhattan U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood ordered forfeiture of $104 million, and is expected to require restitution to victims of around $58 million, the government said.
“Joseph Meli directed his own version of a Broadway production, where the lead character deceives investors into giving him money that he pockets and spends on himself, or uses to pay off other investors,” interim U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. “Today, however, Meli’s Ponzi scheme is over.”
Meli has separately been identified as an uncharged co-conspirator in a similar alleged Ponzi case involving WFAN radio personality Craig Carton, accused last year of scamming $5 million from a hedge fund and other victims by falsely claiming he had access to tickets that could be resold at a profit.
Although Meli is not a named defendant in Carton’s case, he is identified in a Securities and Exchange Commission suit. Carton’s lawyer has claimed that Carton and others were victims of Meli, while Meli’s lawyer has said that isn’t true.
The charges Meli was sentenced on Tuesday included an allegation that he got an investor to give him $3.5 million based on a phony draft agreement giving him rights to 35,000 “Hamilton” tickets. Within two weeks that money was used to buy a $3 million property at 50 Green Hollow Rd. in East Hampton, officials said.
He later used $450,000 in scammed money to pay for renovations, a basketball court and a pool at the house, prosecutors said, and bought a Porsche 911 Turbo for $238,000.
Meli’s lawyer did not respond to a call for comment.