Two found guilty of fraudulent trading over ‘dishonest’ ticket touting firm

Two people have been found guilty of fraudulent trading in relation to a ticket touting firm that “exploited the love and passion” of music fans.

Lynda Chenery and Mark Woods were convicted at Leeds Crown Court on Wednesday over their involvement in Norfolk-based TQ Tickets Ltd, which sold tickets worth more than £6.5 million on secondary ticketing sites in two and a half years.

TQ Tickets was run by Maria Chenery-Woods – who is Woods’ wife and Chenery’s sister – and the trial heard how her company used multiple identities, some fake, to buy large numbers of tickets for artists such as Ed Sheeran and Little Mix on primary sites, including Ticketmaster, before re-selling them on secondary ticketing platforms such as Viagogo.

Chenery-Woods and Paul Douglas, who is Chenery’s ex-husband, pleaded guilty to the charges and all four defendants will now be sentenced at a later date.

The case of those involved with TQ Tickets follows an almost identical prosecution by National Trading Standards of a married couple who ran the London-based firm BZZ.

BZZ’s Peter Hunter and David Smith were jailed for four years and two and a half years respectively in February 2020, following a landmark trial, and they were subsequently ordered to pay back more than £6.2 million by the court.

Jurors in the TQ Tickets trial heard that Chenery-Woods, who referred to herself as the Ticket Queen, was the driving force behind the company.

Jonathan Sandiford KC, prosecuting, opened the case saying: “What this case is about is greed and dishonesty. The two defendants were ticket touts.”

He said: “They were part of a dishonest scheme that, over a number of years, exploited the love and passion that many of us have for our favourite pop bands, our favourite artists – people like Ed Sheeran and so forth.”

Mr Sandiford said they did this “in order to milk them for profits”.

He said the actions of the firm, which included speculatively listing tickets for sale before they had even sourced them, sometimes led to fans being refused entry to venues or with poorer tickets than they paid for.

The prosecutor referred to practices including “doing a fraudie”, which involved sending customers ripped envelopes to infer that the tickets had been lost in transit, or “using fraud juice”, which involved the use of Tipp-Ex correcting fluid, or more sophisticated digital methods, to amend tickets.

Mr Sandiford said that in the period June 2015 to December 2017, the firm had sales in excess of £6.5 million on secondary ticket platforms.

Leeds Crown Court
Lynda Chenery and Mark Woods were convicted at Leeds Crown Court on Wednesday over their involvement in Norfolk-based TQ Tickets Ltd (Alamy/PA)

Mr Sandiford said the firm bought 47,000 tickets during that period, using 127 names and 187 different email addresses.

Those within TQ Tickets communicated via Skype messages, which were shown to the jury.

In one message, Douglas said to Chenery-Woods that the purpose of the business is to “simply rinse consumers for as much profit as they are willing to pay”.

Woods told the court he believed there was “nothing untoward” about his wife’s business.

He said TQ Tickets was an “obsession” for her, telling jurors: “She became completely obsessed. It took priority over me, the family, and it caused conflict.”

Chenery said she did some book-keeping work for her sister’s firm but did not think TQ Tickets was involved in any kind of fraud.

She said she became company secretary after being asked by her sister, but this did not involve performing any duties.

Chenery, 51, and Woods, 59, both of Dickleburgh, near Diss, Norfolk, were found guilty of three counts of fraudulent trading.

Chenery-Woods, 54 of also of Dickleburgh, and Douglas, 56, of Pulham Market, Norfolk, admitted the same offences.