Another of five KU staffers indicted in the University of Kansas ticket scalping scandal has received prison time for charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and will serve nearly four years in a federal penitentiary. Yesterday, March 30, a co-defendant was sentenced to over three years incarceration, and earlier this month, two other defendants facing lesser charges received probation. The three remaining of the indicted await their sentencing in the coming weeks.
Rodney Jones, a former Assistant Athletic Director who headed up Kansas Athletics’ fundraising arm, the Williams Educational Fund, was sentenced today to 46 months, the amount of time prosecutors had requested from U.S. District Judge Wesley E. Brown. Jones will also be liable for all or part of a $1.2 million restitution of funds to the university, in addition to the $114,000 in unpaid taxes he owes the IRS.
In addition, Jones and his co-conspirators — Charlotte Blubaugh, former Associate Athletic Director, Kassie Liebsch, former systems analyst who became Associate Athletic Director upon Blubaugh’s resignation last May, Blubaugh’s husband Thomas, a former paid consultant, and Ben Kirtland, Jones’ ex-supervisor and former Associate Athletic Director — are jointly responsible for a $2 million monetary judgment issued by the court earlier this year.
The five were indicted by federal prosecutors last November on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, with associated charges of transporting stolen goods across state lines and obstruction of income tax collection. The charges stemmed from last year’s investigations by the University, the FBI and the IRS into unusual activity in the Athletic Department, which uncovered evidence of the theft and resale of nearly 20,000 basketball and football tickets from the department between the years of 2005 and 2010.
Earlier this week, prosecutors claimed in a court filing that Jones used his estimated $1.19 million profit from the scheme to engage in “an extensive rolling party scene” for those five years: “It brought him vast wealth that he pretty much lavished upon himself with a lifestyle he could otherwise ill afford.”
At today’s hearing, Jones expressed significant remorse, apologizing to federal authorities, Kansas Athletics and fans, and to his friends and his family, in particular his son Parker. According to the Lawrence Journal-World, Jones added, “I have made a terrible mistake that I will continue to pay for for the rest of my life.”
In January, Jones pleaded guilty in federal court to the felony wire fraud charges. These charges carry a maximum 20 year prison term and up to $250,000 in fines, but federal sentencing guidelines recommend anywhere from 46 to 57 months incarceration. Prosecutors had sought the lower end of the recommended term, while Jones and his attorneys had sought probation plus community service.
Earlier this month, Jason Jeffries, KU’s former Assistant Director for Ticket Operations, and Brandon W. Simmons, former Assistant Director for Sales and Marketing were handed probation for misprision of felony, or having knowledge of the scheme and acting to conceal it. The Blubaugh’s return to court for sentencing in April, and Kirtland is set to appear for sentencing in May.