Online ticket touts jailed for fraud

Ticket touts who shamelessly exploited people longing to see their music idols in concert have been sentenced to a combined total of 6 years and 5 months imprisonment at Leeds Crown Court today (17 May).

Husband and wife duo – Maria Chenery-Woods and Mark Woods – along with Maria’s sister Lynda Chenery and Lynda’s former husband, Paul Douglas, ran TQ tickets, a multi-million-pound limited company. The defendants used TQ tickets to purchase and resell hundreds of tickets at hugely inflated prices for events and concerts such as Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, Gary Barlow, Liam Gallagher, Strictly Come Dancing, Paul Weller and Little Mix.

The sentences handed down are as follows:

  • Maria Chenery-Woods (54) of Dickleburgh, Norfolk – 4 years imprisonment and disqualified from being a company director for 10 years.
  • Mark Woods (60) of Dickleburgh, Norfolk – 2 years imprisonment, suspended for 2 years. Disqualified from being a company director for 4 years. To undertake 250 hours of unpaid work and must wear an electronic curfew for 4 months between the hours of 8pm and 6am.
  • Lynda Chenery (51) of Dickleburgh, Norfolk – 1 month imprisonment, suspended for 2 years. Disqualified from being a company director for 3 years. To undertake 180 hours of unpaid work and complete 20 days of rehabilitation.
  • Paul Douglas (56) of Pulham Market, Norfolk – 2 years 5 months imprisonment, and disqualified from being a company director for 6 years.

Mark Woods and Lynda Chenery were found guilty of fraudulent trading on 13 March 2024. Maria Chenery-Woods and Paul Douglas entered guilty pleas earlier in the process.

An investigation by the National Trading Standards eCrime team found that the defendants used multiple deceitful and fraudulent tactics to acquire multiple tickets from reputable sellers including Ticketmaster, Eventim, SEE Tickets and ACS.

They used fake identities to resell the tickets at significantly higher prices – up to 500% above the original cost - on secondary ticketing sites such as Viagogo, Seatwave, Stubhub and Getmein.

The defendants were also involved in ‘spec selling’ - where non-existent tickets are sold to consumers at inflated prices. When they couldn’t fulfil the purchases, the defendants tried to cover it up by providing fake postal trackers and sending empty or torn envelopes to make it appear as if the tickets had been sent and lost in the post.

Lord Michael Bichard, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

“Having spent hard earned money on tickets for highly anticipated live events, too many people discover too late that they’ve been the victim of a scam, turning excitement into distress.

“Today’s sentencing marks another significant milestone in our work to combat online ticket touts, which has already resulted in landmark prosecutions, and sends a clear message that criminals trying to rip off honest fans risk prosecution.

“I would like to thank the National Trading Standards eCrime team for their tireless efforts to bring the defendants to justice and urge anyone concerned that a sale may be fraudulent to report it to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline by calling 0808 223 1133.”

One of the witnesses involved in the case was Stuart Galbraith, CEO of the live music and events promoter Kilimanjaro Live, who co-promoted Ed Sheeran’s 2018 UK Tour. He said:

“Today’s verdict is good news for live music fans, who are too often ripped off and exploited by ticket touts. For Ed Sheeran’s 2018 UK Tour we helped thousands of fans at our ‘Victims of Viagogo’ kiosks at the box office, where we reissued 6,300 tickets and helped people get over £600,000 in combined refunds from Viagogo. But this only helps victims after the crime, which is why we welcome today’s sentences and the strong message it sends to greedy ticket touts looking to exploit genuine live music fans.”

Ed Sheeran’s manager is Stuart Camp, director of Grumpy Old Management Ltd. Mr Camp said:

“Ed Sheeran’s 2018 summer stadium tour was when we really took a stand against online ticket touts. The low point for me had been one of his earlier Teenage Cancer Trust concerts, where tickets were listed on Viagogo for thousands of pounds, but with none of the money going to charity.

“We want to keep ticket prices accessible for as many people as possible and hope to get everyone a good seat at a fair price. Today’s sentences send a strong message, which I hope will help protect music fans and set an important precedent in the live music industry.”

The sentencing is the latest in a series of prosecutions against secondary ticketing touts that has been led by investigators at the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, which is hosted by City of York Council and North Yorkshire Council.

The National Trading Standards eCrime Team has prepared a checklist for consumers looking to buy tickets online.

Cllr Greg White, North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for managing our environment, said:

“These sentences show tickets scammers should expect to go to prison and forfeit their ill-gotten gains. They may even lose their homes in order to pay back what they stole. This is another excellent result for the National Trading Standards Regional Investigations Team, based in York, aided by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, based in North Yorkshire.”

Cllr Jenny Kent, Executive Member with portfolio for Trading Standards at City of York Council, said:

“These sentences send a clear message to ticket touts and anyone involved in secondary ticketing that exploitation of fans will not be tolerated, and are a direct result of the hard work our Trading Standards teams put in to uphold consumer rights. Our investigators continue to expose all kinds of ecrime and fraud alongside our calls for improved market regulation.”

  • Buy your tickets from, or check ticket availability with, an official agent or reputable ticket supplier (the primary ticket sites) – if in doubt, check the festival or event website for more information about the official vendor and for terms and conditions regarding the re-selling of tickets.
  • Avoid buying from secondary ticket sellers or buying tickets on social media – you could be refused entry if you buy unofficially. However, we know fans desperate for tickets may look for tickets from unofficial sellers. If engaging with unofficial sellers always:
    • research the seller/company
    • check companies are registered at Companies House (the longer the better - if they recently registered it could be a scam)
    • check the seller or company online for unfavourable reviews on Site Jabber, Trust Pilot or Feefo and beware of false positive reviews, a favourite tactic of scammers
    • check ticketing forums for unfavourable feedback – again beware of false positive reviews
    • check the terms and conditions regarding the re-selling of tickets
  • If buying from secondary ticketing sites check the following information is available:
    • the seat number, standing area or location of the ticket
    • who the seller is
    • if the seller is connected to the platform or event organisers
    • restrictions on resold tickets that may prevent entry to the event
  • When purchasing tickets online you should:
    • pay by credit card and never by money transfer
    • use an encrypted payment method
    • don’t post pictures of genuine tickets online (they could be copied and your tickets may become useless)
  • If you are concerned that a sale may be fraudulent report it to the Citizens Advice consumer helpline by calling 0808 223 1133.

Notes to Editors

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About National Trading Standards

National Trading Standards delivers national and regional consumer protection enforcement. Its Board is made up of senior and experienced heads of local government trading standards from around England and Wales with an independent Chair. Its purpose is to protect consumers and safeguard legitimate businesses by tackling serious national and regional consumer protection issues and organised criminality and by providing a “safety net” to limit unsafe consumer goods entering the UK and protecting food supplies by ensuring the animal feed chain is safe.