Joe Meli has been suspended from DTI’s board of directors following his arrest on federal charges of operating a Ponzi scheme.
Joseph Meli and his wife exit U.S. Federal Court in Manhattan. (Reuters)
The Manhattan promoter and his wife stand accused of swindling investors out of $51 million and face charges of conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud. Meli told investors he was raising money to buy up 35,000 tickets for the Broadway hit musical Hamilton as part of an agreement with one of the show’s producers. Authorities say Melis and his co-defendant Steven Simmons never bought the bulk of the tickets and instead used some of the money to repay old investors and misappropriated millions for private school tuition, jewelry and gambling.
Meli is a board member of DTI and his arrest came as a surprise to CEO Curtis Cheng — his spokesman told Amplify that Cheng had “not been contacted by any government officials” as part of the investigation of Meli. Since the arrests were announced Friday, Meli has been suspended by DTI’s board of directors and Cheng has hired a New York public relations firm to help navigate the crisis. Amplify sent several questions to Cheng via email to learn more about DTI’s response to the crisis. His answers are below.
DTI CEO Curtis Cheng
How do you know Joe Meli and how long have you been associated with him?
I knew about Joe as a figure in our industry, as a lot of us have, from his prominence in the music business. I met him for the first time last July, 2016.
Joe Meli is listed as a board member of DTI — what is his role at DTI and did he have any involvement raising money for the company during its October 2016 funding round?
I believed that Joe could potentially help us develop the music and entertainment side of our business. His role at DTI was limited to sourcing new ticket inventory that we could distribute through our platform. We reached an agreement with him to that end, but he didn’t bring any business to DTI. Not a dollar. I was surprised and shocked to learn about his other business dealings from last week’s news reports. DTI had no role with Joe in these other businesses. Of course, according to the allegations, it has now turned out that what he said he could do with us might not ever have been able to happen. In light of the allegations, our Board of Directors has suspended Joe.
Did DTI have any role in setting up or managing the alleged Hamilton or Adele schemes?
No, we did not. And there is no allegation that DTI had any such role. We have no reason to believe that anyone else at DTI had anything to do with any of these allegations. We only just recently met Joe and he had a minor role at DTI. From what I read in the news reports it also seems all those activities began long before we met Joe.
Have the government’s allegations against Meli impacted DTI’s business?
We’re known and trusted in this business. We have a successful track record with our customers. We’re transparent about what we do and how we do it. We’re also aware that our competitors are trying to use this situation to their advantage. But I’ve talked to dozens of brokers and other business partners this weekend and they’ve all been supportive of us, they know our track record, that we’re financially strong and that we honor our commitments.
What do you want to say to the brokers and investors who are shaken by Meli’s arrest and worried about the money and tickets they have tied up in DTI?
What I’m telling brokers and investors is there are no allegations against DTI and they can continue to rely on us to serve their best interests. No one likes to see allegations like this about anyone in any industry. To the extent this shakes up confidence in our industry we’re all going to have to work together to restore that, to have agreed upon standards and practices and total transparency. We’re all in this together at the end of the day.