Late last week, U.S. District Court Judge Wesley Brown granted prosecutors’ request for a $2 million combined forfeiture of funds by several defendants in the University of Kansas ticketing scheme.
Former Associate Athletic Director Charlotte Blubaugh, her husband Thomas, previously employed as a consultant to the AD, and former Assistant Athletic Director Rodney Jones were ordered to pay their portions of a $2 million settlement sought by the federal government for their roles in the ticketing scheme.
The Blubaughs and Jones are three of five former KU employees indicted in the scam, which is believed to have spanned the years 2005 to 2010.
Investigators found that during this time Charlotte Blubaugh entered into a conspiracy with Jones, as well as former Associate Athletic Directors Ben Kirtland and Kassie Liebsch, to obtain and sell Athletic Department tickets to third parties for profit. Charlotte secured a number of athletic department season tickets from the department’s printer which she then distributed for sale to brokers and others. Blubaugh also funneled a number of other tickets through her husband, Thomas. These tickets were sold to only Oklahoma brokers, and proceeds from their sale went solely to the Blubaughs.
Both Kirtland and Liebsch were included in the November indictments of all five on conspiracy to commit wire fraud. All but Kirtland have pleaded guilty to the charges and await sentencing. Kirtland is expected to enter his own guilty plea in District Court on February 24.
Though not included in last week’s settlement judgment, Liebsch had previously agreed to pay her portion of the $2 million settlement, and she has already surrendered a 2008 Toyota Camry she had purchased with her share of the proceeds. All four have also agreed to lie detector tests, if so requested, in order to assist with locating additional funds gained from the scheme.
But last week’s ruling on forfeiture doesn’t guarantee restitution to the University for the estimated $3 million lost to the scandal. At this time, KU can’t make any claims to the money until sentencing of all defendants is completed, and it’s not even clear at this point that all federal investigations have wrapped up. Once the legal actions are over, KU can apply for their funds through the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. However, the judge in the federal proceedings is not only in charge of determining the total amount of forfeiture but also the portion of that to be restored to victims, and KU must abide by that decision, which has not yet been made.
In the meantime, the University is trying to get some relief by filing a claim on a $250,000 insurance policy covering employee theft. The claim was made in October, and a ruling is forthcoming.
Jones and Liebsch will appear for sentencing in March, with the Blubaughs returning in April. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison term of 20 years. In July of 2010, former Assistant Director for Ticket Operations Jason Jeffries and former Assistant Director for Sales and Marketing Brandon W. Simmons were charged with misprision of felony, or having knowledge of a committed felony and acting to conceal it. Both men pleaded guilty to their charges and are also due for sentencing in March. The pair may receive up to three years in prison and be fined up to $250,000.