Box Office Employee Convicted In N.Y. Ticket Scam, Hootie Plans USO Tour

Obtaining good seats to a Hootie and the Blowfish show just got a little easier.

In New York, at least, as the state's Attorney General has successfully convicted a box office employee for illegally holding blocks of concert tickets for brokers and scalpers, according to Ticketmaster.

Joseph Nekola, a former manager for Jones Beach Amphitheater, plead guilty on Tuesday to charges of grand larceny and computer tampering for diverting sales of some 8,000 tickets during Jones Beach's 1996 concert season.

Hootie and the Blowfish prompted the investigation into sales practices after canceling tickets for two 1996 shows at Jones Beach after learning that blocks of front row seats were only available via a ticket service.

According to the investigation conducted by the Attorney General's office, Nekola was able to put tickets for the first ten rows on hold the night before a concert was to go on sale, ensuring the seats couldn't be purchased. Nekola would then

later print the tickets out and sell them for a mark-up to various scalpers and agencies.

Hootie and the Blowfish, who are recording their third album in Burbank, California, with producer Don Gehman, now plan to extend their no-hold policy to cover the first 20 rows of all its concerts. Following the Jones Beach incident, the band had acted to keep tickets in the first 10 rows from being held.

Hootie plans to have a new album out in September, which it will then follow-up with a world tour, part of which will be sponsored by the USO and will have the band play for troops stationed in Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Bosnia and the Persian Gulf.