A Georgia man will spend time in federal prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud in a case tied to tickets for the popular Master’s golf tournament in Georgia. Stephen Michael Freeman, 42, was sentenced to 28 months jail time followed by three years of supervised release in the case. Three relatives charged in the case received probation on similar charges.
Investigators found that Freeman, his parents and sister engaged in a scheme to fraudulently obtain tickets for The Masters by submitting false entries into the tournament’s purchase lottery. They used identities harvested from a bulk mailing list to create ticketing accounts, then routed any tickets that they were able to acquire to themselves.
When any fraudulently created applications received notice of ticket awards via the email addresses provided for them, Stephen Michael Freeman, or others acting at his direction, would create fake identification documents including driver’s licenses, utility bills and credit card statements to persuade the Augusta National to change the winner’s mailing address to one that was under control of the conspiracy.
Beyond the jail time and probation, the group agreed to restitution payments amounting to more than $200,000.
“Long before COVID-19 temporarily prevented patrons from visiting the Masters Tournament, these profiteering con artists managed to steal hundreds of tickets from the Augusta National’s generous ticket lottery and sell them for enormous profits,” said Bobby Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “In the end, their greed-fueled scheme unraveled thanks to an alert Augusta National staff member and excellent investigative work from the FBI.”
Augusta National officials detected the operation when someone noticed that a number of applications for address changes for winning lottery entries were similar.
Many of the details of the sentencing and restitution were already decided more than a year ago when Freeman and his co-defendants entered their guilty pleas.
The Masters will take place in November, with no fans currently allowed per local restrictions on attendance at events due to the coronavirus.