‘Greedy and dishonest’ touts sold tickets worth £6.5m, court hears

<span>Photograph: Georgie Gibbon/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Georgie Gibbon/Rex/Shutterstock

Ticket touts acting out of “greed and dishonesty” sold tickets worth £6.5m to music fans, a court has heard, as a woman known as the “Ticket Queen” pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading nearly seven years after being named in an Observer investigation.

TQ Tickets Ltd, owned by Maria Chenery-Woods of Norfolk, used fake identities to hoover up large numbers of tickets for acts such as Ed Sheeran and Little Mix, prosecutors for National Trading Standards said.

The touts then “exploited the love and passion” of genuine music fans by reselling through secondary ticketing websites, including Viagogo, StubHub and two now defunct sites owned by Ticketmaster – GetMeIn and Seatwave.

Chenery-Woods, 54, and Paul Douglas, 56, who referred to themselves as the Ticket Queen and Ticket Boy respectively, pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading at Leeds crown court.

Their respective spouses, Mark Woods, 59, and Lynda Chenery, 51, who is also Chenery-Woods’s sister, have denied the charges and went on trial on Wednesday morning.

Opening the case, Jonathan Sandiford KC, prosecuting for National Trading Standards, 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.”

He said they did this “in order to milk them [fans] for profits”, racking up sales of £6.5m between June 2015 and December 2017 through controversial secondary ticketing platforms, which allow touts to resell tickets for huge mark-ups.

They acquired 47,000 tickets during the period using 127 names and 187 different email addresses.

Sandiford said the business employed staff, including “corrupted” students, to make multiple applications for event tickets, sometimes using entirely fictional identities and a range of bank and debit cards.

He said the actions of the firm included the fraudulent practice of speculatively listing tickets for sale before they had sourced them. This sometimes led to fans being refused entry to venues or saddled with different tickets to those they had paid for.

Sandiford referred to practices including “doing a fraudie”, which involved sending customers ripped envelopes to imply 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.

Chenery-Woods and her company were first named in an investigation by the Observer in 2016 that revealed how ticket resale sites were dominated by touts.

The hearing is the latest in a series of prosecutions against secondary ticketing touts led by investigators at the National Trading Standards e-crime team.

In 2020, two touts who made at least £11m selling tickets for concerts by Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift were jailed, after they were found guilty of fraud at the first such trial.

The government said last year that it did not think it necessary to change the law to prevent ticket touting, leading to warnings from campaigners that “rampant” resellers would continue to rip people off.

Labour is understood to be considering adding legislation to crack down on the practice in its general election manifesto.