Joe Meli has pled guilty to one count of securities fraud as part of a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Meli faces up to eight years in prison as part of the agreement, but the agreement provides for Meli’s attorneys to petition for a lighter sentence.

“Starting in about 2015 in New York, I mislead investors, and I took inappropriate business by soliciting their investments with false documents,” Meli testified in a Manhattan court today before Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses. “I represented to certain investors that I had formal written contracts to purchase bulk tickets to live events. Those formal contracts did not always exist as I represented. In some cases, I showed investors contracts that appeared to be signed by people who had not signed them. And in some cases, those contracts did not accurately reflect the true agreements related to my bulk purchases of live events. I knew what I was doing was wrong, and I apologize to the Court, I apologize to the government, I apologize to my investors, and to my family for my conduct.”

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Meli entered the guilty plea today and will be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood. Meli is accused of running a Hamilton pyramid scheme, allegedly misappropriating money from investors meant for ticket purchases for concerts and big Broadway shows. Authorities say Meli used the money to repay old investors and finance an extravagant lifestyle.

As part the plea bargain, Meli plead guilty to one count of securities fraud while five other charges related to the pyramid scheme have been dismissed. The development comes just days after Meli’s attorney Dan Fetterman at Kasowitz Benson Torres filed a motion to suppress evidence, alleging the government illegally used a cooperating witness to tape a conversation with Meli outside of Marc Kasowitz’s law firm. Kasowitz is a high profile trial attorney whose clients include President Donald Trump — Kasowitz is representing Trump as part of the Russia investigation by U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller.

A co-defendant, Steven Simmons, pled guilty to charges on Monday. Following the guilty plea, Fetterman released the following statement to the media:

“Mr. Meli is pleased that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has agreed to dismiss the charges against him concerning the Sentinel Ponzi scheme, and he looks forward to putting the case involving his ticket reselling business behind him.”

In February, Mark Varacchi, founder of Sentinel Growth Fund Management LLC, plead guilty to conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud charges. According to the indictment from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Meli falsely claimed to have a relationship and agreement with the producer of Hamilton to purchase tickets in bulk and resell them through secondary market channels. Prosecutors allege that Meli and his co-defendants — including sports radio personality Craig Carton — stole at least $51 million from 125 investors as part of an alleged conspiracy “to perpetuate a Ponzi scheme and to enrich themselves.”

According to court documents, Meli pled guilty to one count of securities fraud which, in explaining the elements of the fraud charge, Assistant United States Elisha Kobre attorney said Meli employed a “scheme” to “defraud,” “made an untrue statement of material fact” and “engaged in an act, practice, or course of business that operated or would operate as a fraud or deceit upon a purchaser or seller.”

As part of the plea deal, Meli is facing 78 to 97 months in prison (six-and-half years to eight years) and a $5 million fine. It’s possible that Meli could receive a lighter sentence outside of the normal sentencing guidelines. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 31, 2018 at 11 a.m. EST in District Court. Meli is currently on bail and will remain free while awaiting his sentencing.

Dave Brooks
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Dave Brooks

Founder & Executive Editor at Amplify Media
Dave Brooks has over 15 years experience as a writer, including eight years as the Managing Editor of Venues Today. He started Amplify in 2014 to give the industry its own voice and turn up the volume on live entertainment.
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