York and N Yorkshire investigators help secure verdict for ticket touts guilty of online fraud

The final pair of a family of ‘ticket touts’ have been found guilty at Leeds Crown Court of fraudulently and dishonestly buying and reselling tickets – often at vastly inflated prices – for high profile music events such as Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga and Little Mix concerts.
The hearing 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 based at City of York Council and North Yorkshire Council. This enforcement has already led to landmark prosecutions, jail terms and millions of pounds in proceeds of crime returned to the exchequer.

This week, Leeds crown court heard that husband and wife, Mark Woods (aged 60) and Maria Chenery-Woods (aged 54), along with Maria’s sister Lynda Chenery (aged 51) and Lynda’s former husband Paul Douglas (aged 56), ran TQ Tickets, a multi-million-pound limited company they used 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.

An investigation by National Trading Standards found that the defendants used several dishonest and fraudulent tactics to purchase multiple tickets from primary ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster, Eventim, SEE Tickets and AXS, circumventing the platforms’ automated systems to block multiple purchases. These techniques – which were designed to exploit fans’ support and passion to line their own pockets – included:

  • using multiple identities and names to buy tickets, including false identities
  • using different names, postal addresses; email addresses and IP addresses
  • concealing their IP address – their internet identity – by using the Insomniac Browser, a specialist software that was designed for use by ticket touts by enabling multiple online identities and proxy IP addresses to purchase tickets at the same time.

Having fraudulently purchased the tickets, the defendants used false identities to resell the tickets at vastly inflated prices – in some cases at 500% more than the face value – on secondary ticketing websites such as Viagogo, Seatwave, Stubhub and Getmein.

The defendants also engaged in fraudulent trading by listing tickets for sale on secondary ticketing websites that they had not purchased and did not own. Known as ‘spec selling’, the idea was to induce consumers to agree to ‘buy’ non-existent tickets – with false information about the seats and row numbers – at an inflated price. Where ticket purchases could not be met, the defendants tried to make it appear that tickets had been sent by giving fake postal trackers and sending empty or torn envelopes.

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

“Millions of people spend their hard-earned money on tickets such as music concerts and sporting events each year. Buying a ticket in good faith and then discovering it is part of a fraudulent scam can be deeply distressing and can have a considerable financial impact on consumers.

“This is a landmark case for National Trading Standards and I hope this prosecution supports progress towards a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.”

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

“The National Trading Standards eCrime Team, hosted by North Yorkshire Council and City of York Council, has again tenaciously prosecuted a team of scammers who thought they would get away their scam. This case has been long and difficult to bring, partly due to Covid, and also because of its complexity, but the team have proved that National Trading Standards won’t give up until the job is done to ensure the public are protected.”

Cllr Jenny Kent, Executive Member at City of York Council, said:

“These convictions show it is always worth reporting your concerns to Trading Standards, who are determined to ensure fans can enjoy live shows, with confidence in the tickets they buy. Touts who exploit consumers, and the systems put in place to protect their hard earned money, won’t escape our tenacious investigators. We are delighted to have contributed to the fight against secondary ticketing and hope it supports ongoing efforts to better regulate this market.”

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 greedy 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 prosecution 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 prosecution will help protect music fans and sets an important precedent in the live entertainment industry that I hope will be celebrated by live music fans.”

The investigation was led by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, which has prepared a checklist for consumers looking to buy tickets online.


  • Buy your tickets from, or check ticket availability with, an official agent or reputable ticket supplier – if in doubt, check the festival or event website for more information about the official vendor
  • 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
  • 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 resold tickets that 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.