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4 Californians indicted in alleged ticket reselling scam

Authorities say the men hacked into Ticketmaster computers to fraudulently buy tickets before they went on sale, then sold them at a premium to retail customers.

March 01, 2010|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Four California men have been indicted for allegedly using their company, Wiseguy Tickets Inc., to fraudulently buy and sell tickets to popular concerts and sporting events.

In a 43-count indictment, Kenneth Lowson, 40, Kristofer Kirsch, 37, and Faisal Nahdi, 36, of Los Angeles and 37-year-old Joel Stevenson of Alameda are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and gain unauthorized access to computer systems, as well as damaging computers in interstate commerce.

The indictment, unsealed Monday in New Jersey, alleged that the four took in $25 million by fraudulently buying and reselling tickets for Bruce Springsteen and Hannah Montana concerts, Rose Bowl and Yankees games and other events. Altogether, they moved about 1.5 million tickets, the indictment said.

By hacking into the computers of Live Nation Entertainment and its Ticketmaster unit, the men were able to buy almost half of the 440 general admission floor tickets for a July 2008 Springsteen concert at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.

Other sites were also hacked into, including Tickets.com and MLB.com, prosecutors said.

According to the court document, the four men described the success of their ticket scheme as "straight domination."

"The allegations in this indictment represent a scheme orchestrated through technology to cheat the public and circumvent fair business practices," FBI assistant special agent Edward Kahrer said.

The men used complex software that allowed them to impersonate thousands of individual ticket buyers to purchase tickets before they even went on sale to the public, the court document said.

The tickets were then resold through Wiseguy Tickets Inc. or other company names and aliases on the Internet, such as Smaug Inc. and Seats of San Francisco Inc., the indictment said.

On average, the men charged about a $30 premium when reselling the tickets, but some events were marked up as much as $1,000 per ticket, prosecutors said.

Lowson, Kirsch and Stevenson surrendered Monday to the FBI in Newark, N.J., the U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey said. Nahdi is not currently in the United States but is expected to surrender to authorities in the coming weeks, the statement said, after which the four defendants will be arraigned in a New Jersey federal court.

Calls to the men's lawyers requesting comment were not returned Monday.

Wire fraud, the most serious charge the men face, carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Ticketmaster did not return requests for comment.

nathan.olivarezgiles

@latimes.com

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