Former math teacher gets 2 years for $71 million ticket scam

Chris Dolmetsch

A former math teacher was sentenced to more than two years in prison for fleecing investors of $71 million through a Ponzi scheme disguised as an operation to buy and sell tickets to high-profile concerts, musicals and sporting events.

Jason Nissen, 47, raised money from investors he said he would use to purchase and resell tickets to popular events – such as the Super Bowl and the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” – and instead used it to repay earlier investors, according to prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud in March 2018.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmeyer in Manhattan sentenced Nissen to 27 months in prison, well below the eight to 10 years called for by federal guidelines. While the judge said Nissen had “perpetrated a fraud on a massive scale,” lying to investors and fabricating documents to keep the scheme going, he noted that he had no criminal record, a history of community involvement, two young children and a wife.

The judge also pointed out that Nissen undertook the fraud as part of an attempt to save his business and that he contacted his victims and reported his crime to prosecutors before they approached him.

This image released by The Public Theater shows Lin-Manuel Miranda, foreground, with the cast during a performance of "Hamilton," in New York.

“I have found your case to be a particularly difficult and tragic one,” Engelmayer said.

Read More: Concert Promoter Gets More Than Six Years for Hamilton Scam

The case emerged amid a crackdown by federal prosecutors on misconduct in the largely unregulated $15 billion ticket-resale industry, where middlemen purchase blocks of tickets and resell them at inflated prices. The highest-profile person targeted in the effort, sports radio jock Craig Carton, was convicted in November and sentenced to 3 1 / 2years in prison in April.

Nissen, the former chief executive officer of National Event Co., started the ticket-resale business in 2012 and began the fraud three years later, according to court filings. The company has filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors.

Nissen is a former math teacher in Queens, New York, who was fired in 2004 after being caught reselling Dave Matthews Band tickets to his students for a profit, according to the New York City Department of Education.

A tearful Nissen, his voice trembling at times, apologized to his victims and his friends and family, including his two young children and his wife, who was seated in the front row behind him and is eight months pregnant.

“Somehow I lost my way in trying to keep my company afloat,” Nissen said. “I always believed things would work out.”

The case is U.S. v. Jason Nissen, 17-cr-477, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).