The first two of seven defendants involved in the University of Kansas ticket scalping scandal have heard their sentences in a Wichita court today, March 7.
U.S. District Court Judge Wesley Brown has ordered Jason Jeffries, KU’s former Assistant Director for Ticket Operations, and Brandon W. Simmons, former Assistant Director for Sales and Marketing, to serve two years probation and pay fines toward restitution of the moneys received in the scheme. Simmons is required to pay $157,480 in fines, Jeffries $56,000.
Last July, Jeffries and Simmons were charged with misprision of felony, or having the knowledge of a committed felony and acting to concealing it. Jeffries and Simmons were employed in KU’s Athletic Department at the time that colleagues sold over $2 million in department tickets to third parties for profit. Federal criminal information documents filed at the time of Simmons’ and Jeffries’ July appearances alleged that the two were aware of the theft of over $5,000 in tickets from KU’s Athletic Department but failed to report this activity to authorities.
Jeffries also acknowledged that he helped to conceal the scheme by removing important ticket availability information from an office board, in effect preventing donors’ access to those tickets.
Prosecutors report that Simmons went even farther in the scheme, having sent department tickets to an unnamed Oklahoma ticket broker whom he knew from high school and then falsifying records to conceal his actions. The two men together will pay in restitution $1,000 more than the total amount that KU’s internal investigators claim Simmons received from a ticket broker sale and then split with Jeffries.
Misprision of felony charges carry up to $250,000 in fines, up to three years’ incarceration, or both. Federal sentencing guidelines reduce prison time to a period of eight to fourteen months, with house arrest also available for the term. However, Judge Brown decided upon probation for the two, citing the nature of the pair’s crimes and their personal histories as determining factors.
In court today, both men expressed remorse. “I made a terrible error in judgment in this circumstance,” Simmons said, according to the Kansas City Star, while Jefferies added, “I took a wrong turn on my life path.”
Early last week, Simmons’ attorney, Mark Bennett, Jr., had filed a motion with the court requesting a sentencing delay for his client, hoping to postpone today’s appearance. Simmons had reportedly been expecting a reduction in his sentence due to his cooperation with prosecutors over the past several months. When news came last Monday, February 28, that prosecutors would not be filing this “substantial assistance” motion, Bennett requested the delay in order to allow him additional time to file a sentencing memorandum on Simmons’ behalf. Prosecutors have explained that this “substantial assistance” motion was not filed because the case did not end up in a trial, with all other defendants pleading out before the trial date.
On the day following Bennett’s request for delay, Judge Brown denied his request and entered a preliminary order on Simmons’ and Jeffries’ sentences. These judgments came early so as to give each defendant time to prepare arguments before the judge entered his final decision at today’s hearing. Brown’s preliminary judgments matched those handed down today.
The charges against Simmons and Jeffries stem from investigations by KU, the FBI and the IRS over the past year regarding unusual ticketing activity in KU’s Athletic Department. The investigations revealed that five AD staffers had engaged in the unauthorized sale of nearly 20,000 football and basketball tickets belonging to the department between the years of 2005 and 2010.
These five staffers, former Associate Athletic Director Charlotte Blubaugh, her husband Thomas (previously paid as a consultant to the AD), former associate Athletic Director Ben Kirtland, former Assistant Athletic Director Rodney Jones and former AD staffer Kassie Liebsch, who was promoted to Charlotte Blubaugh’s position upon Blubaugh’s resignation last May, were indicted in November on federal charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to prosecution statements, Charlotte Blubaugh entered into a conspiracy with Jones, Kirtland and Liebsch to obtain and sell the Athletic Department tickets to a number of third parties, including ticket brokers. Charlotte secured a number of season tickets from the department’s printer and distributed them among the other three for sale. She received the proceeds, which were then presumably split among the co-conspirators. In a separate set of transactions, Blubaugh funneled a number of other tickets through her husband, Thomas. These tickets were sold only to unnamed Oklahoma brokers, and proceeds from their sale went solely to the Blubaughs.