Two Miami-Dade residents charged in $400,000 Sony Open ticket scam

 

jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

While tennis stars competed at the Sony Open tournament on Key Biscayne, two Miami-Dade residents teamed up behind the scenes to steal $407,000 in an alleged ticket scam, authorities say.

A federal indictment Thursday accused Mikel Mims, 37, of Miami Gardens, and Simon Habbershaw, 41, formerly of Miami, with doubling up to rip off their employer, IMG Worldwide Inc. The New York-based sports management business runs the prestigious tournament played in March at the Crandon Park Tennis Center.

According to the conspiracy indictment, the pair collaborated to defraud IMG Worldwide by ordering extra tickets that they claimed were sought by the company’s corporate sponsors for the tournament. Then, they allegedly sold those tickets to other sponsors and pocketed the profits over the course of six years.

In many instances, the payments were made to a “shell” company, With All My Soul, that was set up by Mims to pretend to be an IMG corporate sponsor that had extra tickets for sale, the indictment said.

Mims was arrested early Thursday by FBI agents and had her first appearance in Miami federal court in the afternoon. Habbershaw is still at large. If convicted, each faces up to five years in prison on a fraud conspiracy charge and up to 20 years on related fraud charges.

A judge assigned a federal public defender to represent Mims after she said “her earnings are pretty meager.” She told Magistrate Judge Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes that her annual income from two tax and logistics businesses was about $12,000, plus she received monthly rent of $800 from two residences she owns in North Carolina and Florida.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Davidson asked the judge to set Mims’ bond at $150,000, requiring her to put down $5,000.

Her business partner, James Reece, provided the down payment for the bond, saying Mims was a “good person” and a “churchgoing lady.”

“I’ve never known her to be into anything illegal,” Reece said after Mims’ initial court appearance. “I was shocked to hear about this when I got the call this morning.”

According to the indictment, Mims and Habbershaw coordinated ticket purchases for IMG Worldwide’s corporate sponsors for the Sony Open tennis tournament.

The pair allegedly told the company’s printing vendor that IMG’s sponsors purchased more tickets than they had actually bought. As a result, the vendor printed extra tournament tickets for Mims and Habbershaw, who then falsely said IMG’s sponsors had extra tickets for the tennis tournament that needed to be sold, according to the indictment.

From 2008 to 2013, Mims and Habbershaw sold the additional sponsors’ tickets to other corporate customers and made $407,409 in profits, according to the indictment.

The Sony Open, considered the “fifth major” in professional tennis because of the world-class players who compete at the tournament, draws huge crowds. Stars Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic won the women's and men's finals in March.

IMG Worldwide could not be reached for comment.

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