Two Auckland brothers behind an elaborate Rugby World Cup ticket scam worth more than $700,000 have escaped jail time. Demissie Tefera Asgedom, 29, and Nebiyou Tefera Demissie, 41, were arrested on the day of the opening ceremony at Eden Park on September 9, 2011 for a scalping operation.

The Ethiopian brothers were sentenced to one year of home detention each at the Auckland District Court today after being found guilty on 30 charges relating to a scalping operation in the lead-up to the 2011 final.

Judge David Harvey said there was no doubt the brothers were “middle men” drawn into a larger international operation.  “It is clear the you were cogs in a greater piece of machinery that involved unlawfully obtained credit cards in an operation that was clearly devised overseas….[you] were the fall guys but rather necessary fall guys.  You clearly didn’t devise the scheme but the scheme certainly wouldn’t have been able to work had it not been for you,” he said.

He said because of the lack of tickets sold there was no monetary loss for unsuspecting buyers, no financial gain for the brothers and no breach of trust, which made sentencing difficult.  A man in South Africa paid for the tickets while the brothers on-sold them in New Zealand, the court heard.

Demissie and Asgedom had given the names of members in their soccer teams to the overseas operation so the tickets could be ordered.  Judge Harvey said the brothers had “burst onto the [offending] stage rather dramatically” with the scalping, which was of public interest in light of the Rugby World Cup.  The men were also sentenced to 200 hours of community work.

“The Rugby World Cup was a significant event in the New Zealand sporting calendar and for New Zealand generally on the world stage.  Significant efforts were undertaken to deal with the issue of scalpers and there’s no doubt this particular operation had a scalping element to it.”  Police discovered the dishonestly-obtained 1734 Rugby World Cup tickets in a bust after suspicious transactions were flagged by Ticketek.

Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey said it was a “very unusual” fraud because there was no financial gain for the pair.  “It’s a very unusual fraud if I can put it that way because actually nobody’s got any money in their pockets except for a few tickets that were sold prior to apprehension.”

Asgedom’s defence lawyer Russel Lawn asked for “leniency slash mercy” for his client, whose “moral compass” was now back on course.  Demissie’s lawyer Lorraine Smith agreed.  She said her client had already lost his taxi license, which was a real blow to the hard-working man.  “I would think after this exercise something like this would never happen again,”she said.

Both men were sentenced to home detention in Mt Roskill