A Texas family at the center of a Masters Golf Tournament ticket resale scheme have pleaded guilty to several federal charges.
Stephen Michael Freeman will serve a three-year prison term after admitting to stealing identities to manipulate the Masters’ ticket lottery system and access grounds passes, which he then resold for profit. In April, he was charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. His parents and sister were also charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, though they are not expected to serve time. The family is forced to pay more than $275,000 in restitution but still have to appear before a federal judge for sentencing before their plea deal is accepted.
“These profiteering con artists thought they had succeeded in hijacking the Augusta National’s generous ticket lottery system to satisfy their own greed,” said Bobby Christine, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “The Masters is one of the world’s great sporting events, and tickets to the tournament are cherished by their fortunate recipients. Using fraud and deceit to circumvent the Augusta National’s generous lottery system is despicable, and those who follow the rules in hopes of winning tickets deserve better than to have their chances diminished.”
The Katy, Texas-based family scammed Masters ticket-buyers by obtaining names and addresses from extensive mailing lists, which they then used to make fake accounts in order to control Augusta National Golf Club’s online ticket lottery. Freeman created fake driver licenses, credit card statements and other documents for each selected identity to include the address of his relatives in order to acquire the tickets and ultimately, resell for a sizable profit.
The family’s scheme is said to have run from 2013 through 2017, though the exact number of tickets they obtained and amount of money made through resale remain unknown.