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Diss firm selling concert tickets for Ed Sheeran and Little Mix raked in £6.5 million, according to prosecutors

“Greed and dishonesty” motivated the owners of a Diss firm when it “exploited the love and passion” of music lovers to make more than £6.5 million from secondary ticketing sites, a court has heard.

TQ Tickets Ltd used multiple identities, some of which were fake, to buy tickets for artists such as Suffolk superstar Ed Sheeran and Little Mix, before selling them on secondary ticket sites, prosecutors said.

Mark Woods, 59, and Lynda Chenery, 51, both from Dickleburgh, each deny three counts of fraudulent trading.

Crown Court
Crown Court

The pair’s spouses – Maria Chenery-Woods, 54, from Dickleburgh, who prosecutors said was the driving force behind the enterprise, and Paul Douglas, 56, from Pulham Market – have admitted charges of fraudulent trading.

Jonathan Sandiford KC, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court this week that the firm sold about £6.5 million in tickets between June 2015 and December 2017 on sites such as Viagogo.

The firm, which is headquartered in Hopper Way, Diss, bought 47,000 tickets on primary sites, including Ticketmaster, during this period, using 127 names and 187 different email addresses, he said.

The jury was told the firm would speculatively list tickets for sale before they had sourced them, which sometimes led to fans being refused entry to venues.

“What this case is about is greed and dishonesty,” said Mr Sandiford. “The two defendants were ticket touts.”

The prosecutor told jurors how the firm was originally set up as a coach company and retained a “veneer” of legitimacy.

In a message read out in court, Douglas told Chenery-Woods that the purpose of the business was to “simply rinse consumers for as much profit as they are willing to pay”.

“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,” added Mr Sandiford.

On Wednesday, Sheeran’s manager, Stuart Camp, explained how the star’s concert tours had a strict ticket pricing policy aimed at “keeping prices accessible for as many people as possible”.

He said that demand for tickets was extremely high but that they were committed to keeping prices down so that they were not beyond people.

Mr Camp outlined the extensive measures he and promoter Stuart Galbraith went to as they tried to prevent the reselling of tickets at inflated prices for the singer’s 2018 UK stadium tour, which saw Sheeran play 120 concerts to around four million people.

He said he was determined to stamp out reselling, except for one outlet, which was contracted to resell tickets for those who genuinely could not make the events.

Mr Galbraith said it was made very clear to buyers and primary sellers that tickets could not be resold, and that concert-goers attempting to use them would be refused entry.

He said he also wrote to three key figures at the secondary reselling site Viagogo to warn them of the consequences of reselling the tickets.

The court heard that fans who were discovered trying to get into gigs with tickets bought on Viagogo were directed to kiosks at the venues, where they were given letters to help them get a refund from the firm and offered fresh tickets at face value.

Mr Galbraith said the pricing policy for the tour was from £50 to £80 for London dates and from £45 to £75 for those outside the capital.

He said around 6,300 replacement tickets were sold over the course of the tour to those who presented unauthorised, resold tickets.

But he said he believed another 2,000 were bought at face value on the open marketplace by those who had their unauthorised tickets cancelled.

Danielle Graham, prosecuting, told the jury that National Trading Standards investigators had found that people working for TQ Tickets had bought 70 tickets at an average price of £74.17 for the 2018 tour, according to information obtained from ticket firms.

But she said other evidence, obtained from the firm’s own records, suggested 150 tickets had been bought by 23 different card holders and a further 200 tickets had been bought as part of group packages.

Ms Graham said information from secondary ticket sellers’ sites showed that the firm sold 148 tour tickets at an average price of £165.52.

She told the jury: “The tickets that were sold were sold for over double the face value price.”

The jury heard how one person employed at the company had 38 web browsers open at one time in an attempt to obtain tickets to the tour, which involved 18 concerts at five venues in Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, Newcastle and London.

The trial continues.