What kind of case about ticket fraud in the leading theaters in Russia?
In the Tverskoy Court of Moscow, court hearings have begun on a criminal case against a group of people accused of fraud with theater tickets from leading theaters in Russia. This was reported by the press service of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (TFR).
What is the essence of the criminal case?
According to the investigation, businessmen Aleksey Kurinov, Andrey Khartanyuk and his mother — Irina Khartanyuk, Vitaly Gashakov, Aleksey Kurinov, Yana Tagina and Yulia Charykova, “acting as part of a criminal group”, they created twin websites of the most popular cultural institutions in Moscow and St. Petersburg, including:
- Mariinsky Theatre;
- Maly Theatre;
- Bolshoi Theatre;
- Theatre of Nations;
- Russian Academic Youth Theater (RAMT);
- Conservatory. P. I. Tchaikovsky;
- as well as the website of the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival.
“All these cultural institutions suffered large-scale material damage in the form of illegal use of trademarks in the total amount of more than 9 million rubles.” ;, — said in the TFR.
Who organized the criminal business and how did it work?
According to the investigation, in 2013 Andrei Khartanyuk and Aleksey Kurinov started selling tickets online (for sports matches, performances and other cultural events) through Simple Life Innovation. For these purposes, Hartanyuk registered two domains — bilet2u.ru and sport2u.ru.
As follows from the materials of the criminal case, for several years businessmen worked within the framework of the law, and in 2017 Khrataniuk, in order to “dramatically increase his income”, instructed his companion Kurinov (according to the investigation «good programmer») to create clones of the official websites of popular Russian theaters. Through them, tickets were sold at inflated prices.
“Through these resources, the accomplices illegally sold tickets to the events of institutions using their trademarks and similar designations at inflated prices, misleading ticket buyers about the ownership of the sites to these institutions, thereby stealing the money of buyers, — noted in TFR.
It is also noted that the scammers sought to ensure that their sites appeared first when users requested them (foreign companies were indicated by the domain name operator for conspiracy). And in Moscow and Vladimir, they organized the work of call centers, through which they also sold tickets.
According to the investigation, Khartanyuk was in charge of the illegal business. He set ticket prices, distributed the proceeds from their sale, and also provided cover for the firms involved in the criminal scheme. Kurilov also controlled the work of hired designers and programmers. Other defendants in the criminal case also actively participated in the fraudulent scheme.
So, according to law enforcement officers, entrepreneur Yulia Charykova — this is Hartanyuk's personal assistant. Vitaly Gashakov (owner of Eurotickets, Ticket Market and Group Office) — selected premises for call centers, programmers and couriers. Yana Tagina (general director of the company «No way without us») — Responsible for the recruitment of call center operators and supervised their work. And the mother of the organizer of the criminal network — Irina Hartanyuk (general director of the Yurekspert company) — dealt with legal and financial issues (supervised the opening of bank accounts and the cashing out of funds received on them).
It was established that in total more than 150 people were involved in illegal activities (including IT specialists, programmers, call center employees, ticket sellers).
The money from illegal ticket sales was transferred to the accounts of organizations controlled by fraudsters, and then distributed among the members of the criminal group.
How did you find the fraudsters?
As follows from the materials of the case, the basis for starting an investigation served as a statement from the Mariinsky Theater, in which they found that tickets for their performances are sold through clones of the official website — mariinskii.com and mariinskiy-theatre.com. Based on the results of the pre-investigation check, the criminal case was opened on February 14, 2022.
In addition, it became known about the repeated appeals of buyers to the theaters themselves. The victims complained about high prices or that they had not received a ticket that had already been paid for.
Where are the accused now?
Andriy Khartanyuk and his mother were put on the international wanted list and arrested in absentia. In relation to Kurinov, a measure of restraint in the form of detention was chosen, Tagina and Charykova — undertaking not to leave.
A pre-trial agreement on cooperation was concluded with Gashakov, the investigation of the criminal case against him is at the final stage, the ICR reported.
The defendants’ real estate, cars and money accounts were seized in order to compensate them for the damage caused to the victims (theaters and defrauded customers). According to the TFR, civil suits have been filed in the amount of more than 130 million rubles.
Currently, the sites through which illegal tickets were sold have been stopped, the TFR specified.
What threatens the accused?
The criminal case was initiated under part 4 of article 159 (“Fraud”) and part 4 of article 180 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“Illegal use of means of individualization of goods (works and services)»).
For fraud committed by an organized group of persons on an especially large scale, the accused face up to 10 years in prison. The maximum term for 4 paragraph 180 of the article — imprisonment for up to 6 years.
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