Two online ticket touts who made millions reselling tickets for high profile gigs and plays have been found guilty of fraudulent trading.
Peter Hunter and David Smith tricked selling sites over two-and-a-half years, buying £4m worth of tickets that they sold for £10.8m.
They targeted events including Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift gigs and Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, Leeds Crown Court heard.
They will be sentenced on 24 February.
‘Motivated by greed’
The prosecution is the first of its kind in the UK since the York-based National Trading Standards (NTS) eCrime team began investigating the reselling of tickets on the internet in 2017.
During a three-month trial, prosecutors said the married couple used multiple identities and computer bots to harvest large numbers of tickets for a range of events.
They sold the tickets on secondary ticketing sites, including the “big four” – Viagogo, GetMein, StubHub and Seatwave – at inflated prices, the prosecution said.
Jonathan Sandiford, prosecuting, told the jury that Hunter and Smith were “dishonest fraudsters motivated by greed”.
NTS said Hunter and Smith deployed at least 97 different names, 88 postal addresses and more than 290 email addresses to evade platform restrictions.
Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp told jurors the act had decided to take a stand against touts after spotting £75 seats at a charity gig on sale for £7,000.
But Hunter and Smith, both from north London, argued they did nothing wrong.
Hunter’s defence team told the jury that they were a trusted source of tickets with thousands of positive reviews.
Ben Douglas-Jones QC, for Hunter, said his client was no more greedy than other businessmen providing a service.
He said the prosecution’s focus on high-profile, high sought-after events missed the point that sellers like Hunter, who is originally from Dublin, provided a valuable service to acts who struggled to sell out venues and to customers who found it difficult to buy from the primary sellers in the tiny windows when tickets are issued.
Mr Douglas-Jones said his client accepted breaching terms and conditions of the ticket sellers but said that was not a criminal act and it was known across the industry many of the rules were unenforceable.
Hunter, 51, and Smith, 66, of Crossfield Road, were both found guilty of fraudulent trading and possessing an article for fraud.
Granting them bail until sentencing, Judge Mushtaq Khokhar warned the men they could be jailed.