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Alameda man indicted in ticket scheme

Submitted by on 1, March 1, 2010 – 3:43 pmNo Comment

Federal prosecutors have secured an indictment against an Alameda man and three other who, they said, made $25 million by illegally obtaining and reselling tickets to premium music, theater and sporting events from a host of major online ticket vendors.

Joel Stevenson, 37, is one of four men facing charges including wire fraud, gaining unauthorized access and exceeding
authorized access to computer systems and causing damage to computers in interstate commerce. The charges were handed down by a federal grand jury on February 23 and the indictment was unsealed Monday, when three of the men, including Stevenson, turned themselves in to federal authorities in Newark, N.J.

Federal prosecutors said Stevenson served as the chief United States-based programmer for Wiseguys Tickets, Inc., and that he helped program “bots” that did an end-run around big sites’ CAPTCHA systems, which are designed to help enforce ticket sellers’ efforts to limit ticket purchases. They said Stevenson also supervised computer programmers in Bulgaria who helped create a nationwide network of computers that impersonated individual visitors.

The company then purchased blocks of tickets to premium concerts, theater and sporting events and resold them to ticket brokers at marked-up prices, federal prosecutors said. They said the company was able to purchase nearly half of the 440 general admission floor tickets to a July 2008 Bruce Springsteen Concert at Giants Stadium in New York, and that the company had also illegally purchased a host of tickets for a January 2009 NFL playoff game there.

All told, prosecutors said Stevenson and Kenneth Lowson, 40, Kristofer Kirsch, 37, and Faisal Nahdi, 36, who are all from
Los Angeles, illegally obtained 1.5 million tickets from Ticketmaster, Tickets.com, MLB.com and other sites for events in a host of American cities. Stevenson, Lowson and Kirsch were expected to face a federal judge Monday afternoon.

Stevenson’s attorney, John Yauck, could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

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