A boxing fanatic who threatened to torch the home of a Viagogo director if he was not paid $1million (£656,000) for lost Arsenal season tickets has been jailed for three years.
Ross Connor, (34), originally from Bretton in Peterborough, but who gave an address in Town Dam Lane, Donington, Spalding, waged an ‘aggressive and sustained campaign’ against the online ticket selling website after his passes were confiscated from Bayern Munich fans who celebrated their team’s goal in The Emirates’ home end during a Champions League clash.
He bombarded Viagogo staff with threatening emails, staged a sit-in at the central London offices and even asked on Twitter for someone to ‘bang out this ginger t****r’ Ed Parkinson, the company’s director.
But when the company refused to budge, Connor sent a sympathy card to Mr Parkinson’s family home, telling his wife to flee with their two children within two hours.
He also menaced that he had wasted so much money on legal fees that ‘burning this house would have been the cheapest option’, the Old Bailey heard.
Connor made headlines when he was stopped by Thai border guards who refused to believe he was the same person after dropping from 21st to 13st at a year-long kick boxing camp.
He denied blackmail, but was convicted by a jury of seven men and five women before Judge Richard Marks QC, the Common Sergeant of London, jailed him for three years.
The judge told Connor: ‘Your actions... amounted to an aggressive and sustained campaign over a lengthy period of a number of months, which was calculated and did cause real intimidation, having regard to your insinuations and threats to the personal safety of members of staff of Viagogo as well as family members of Mr Parkinson, culminating in the sending of a sympathy card, which in my view was utterly indefensible.’
Connor, who has been pictured online with boxing champions Manny Pacquiao and Joe Calzaghe, sold tickets to concerts and sporting events on the secondary market using Viagogo’s website.
But he fell out with the company after he was wrongly allowed to sell tickets to Arsenal’s 2013 Champions League clash with Bayern Munich on the site.
The German fans who bought the tickets ended up in the home stand at the Emirates Stadium among Arsenal fans, and after celebrating Bayern’s opening goal, they were ejected and the tickets confiscated.
Connor demanded Viagogo pay him £5,000 per lost ticket and the company did reimburse a total of £12,500.
The judge told him: ‘Against this background, whether with sound justification or not, you bore Viagogo a very serious grudge and when they refused to comply with these ever-increasing demands to be reimbursed in ever larger amounts of money, which ended up at $1million, this developed into an obsession as far as you were concerned.
‘You bombarded employees with texts, phone calls and emails, becoming more aggressive in tone with larger demands.’
Connor started by occupying the Viagogo offices in Holborn, central London, taking photos and refusing to leave until he was arrested by police.
He then started sending threatening emails to the company demanding £400,000 and warning: ‘I’m just after what I’m owed’ adding ‘I will go to any lengths.’
Prosecutor Archie McKay said Connor was ‘fixated’ on pursuing his claim, saying in an email on April 14 last year that ignoring people would ‘make them more made and push them to new extremes’.
Connor then broadcast images of Viagogo staff, calling them ‘a few of the scum’ and instructing viewers to attack Mr Parkinson by asking: ‘Anyone want to bang out that ginger tosser from Viagogo?’
‘That’s an invitation to punch in the face Mr Parkinson because he is a director of Viagogo and his office address Connor put with it’, said Mr McKay.
‘It is the prosecution case that Mr Connor knew full well he was dealing with a business, he had previously benefited from their embarrassment by way of a pay off.
‘This was his design - to be such a problem for the company that decision makers come to a similar business decision and he would be paid.
‘Part of the design was to be relentless, his mindset had to be “you can’t ignore me, I will not go away”.
‘All the actions are designed to cause as much embarrassment and cost to the company as he could.’
Mr McKay said Connor reported the company to the police, and sent an email to the American chief executive Eric Baker in October last year, demanding $1m (£656,000) in compensation to settle his claim.
Shortly afterwards, in November last year, he sent the sympathy card to Mr Parkinson’s wife, saying: ‘I write to you now as Ed thinks it’s fine to play all these games to wind me up.
‘Viagogo owe me a large sum of money and are ignoring all legal attempts.
‘I’ve wasted so much money in legal fees, burning this house would have been the cheapest option.
‘You have two hours from signing for this for Ed Parkinson to contact me.
‘If you ignore this final request, you address will be made public online so I won’t be the only one chasing you.
‘I will advertise lots of cheap items to this address so you get door-knocked all day, never knowing when the real call comes.’
The card added: ‘Innocent people don’t need involved’ and suggested she go ‘back to Wales’ with her children.’
Connor, originally from Bretton, Peterborough, told jurors he was just making a determined attempt to get compensation he was legally owed.
The defendant, whose bail address was given as Town Dam Lane, Donington, Spalding, Lincs, denied blackmail.