A pair of ticket brokers has been charged by federal authorities with fraud in a case where an employee of the United States Golf Association (USGA) stole U.S. Open tournament tickets for several years to sell through the ticket brokers. Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced the charges against Jeremi Michael Conaway and James Bell, which include conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud. The insider – Robert Fryer – has already pleaded guilty to fraud charges related to the scheme, which ran for several years before the USGA caught on.
Conaway and Bell each face maximum sentences of up to 100 years in prison and up to $1.25 million in fines as well as restitution of the proceeds if convicted.
“These defendants allegedly stole revenue from an American institution and legitimate business that pays taxes, employs many, supports a non-profit organization, and brings excitement and income to our district with U.S. Open events at courses like the Merion Golf Club,” said Acting U. S. Attorney Williams. “Criminals that conduct ticket schemes like this prey on the excitement surrounding big events; fans should remember that any item with a low price that seems ‘too good to be true’ should be cause for caution and concern.”
According to the charges, Fryer used his position in the USGA Admissions Office to steal more than 23,000 tickets to the tournament, one of golf’s four Major events annually. The tickets were then distributed to the ticket brokers, with Fryer allegedly receiving more than $1 million in payments for the tickets, which had a face value of more than $3 million. Conaway allegedly became involved beginning in 2013 – first as an employee of one ticketing company and then from 2015 on operating as the owner of his own ticketing company. Authorities say that his profit over the span of the alleged scheme was more than $1.27 million before it was halted in 2019. Bell allegedly was involved in the scam from 2017 to 2019, profiting just over $538,000 in that span.
For his role in the scheme, Fryer faced a maximum sentence of 300 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $3.75 million in fines and restitution of the funds stolen. Details of the plea deal reached with federal officials has not been announced.
The full press release and details of the alleged crimes are outlined below:
Two Philadelphia-area Ticket Brokers Charged with Conspiring with Former USGA Employee to Steal and Sell Thousands of U.S. Open Tickets Worth Over $3.7 Million
PHILADELPHIA – Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced that Jeremi Michael Conaway, 46, of West Chester, PA, and James Bell, 69, of Glen Mills, PA, were both charged by separate Informations with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, and one count of wire fraud.
The Informations allege that Conaway and Bell each conspired with former United States Golf Association (“USGA”) employee Robert Fryer, who already pleaded guilty to similar charges, to operating a fraud scheme against the USGA whereby Fryer would steal U.S. Open tickets and provide them to Conaway and Bell in return for cash. The Informations further allege that Conaway and Bell sold these U.S. Open tickets through their companies for a profit. The filings also allege that the USGA had no knowledge that Fryer was stealing these tickets or providing them to the ticket brokers. In fact, the USGA had a strict 20 ticket cap on the number of tickets that it would sell to any one person, but Conaway and Bell were allegedly able to acquire thousands of tickets to U.S. Open tournaments by buying stolen tickets from Fryer, who delivered the stolen U.S. Open tickets to Conaway and Bell sometimes in person, and sometimes by sending them via Federal Express or UPS, either to the ticket brokers themselves or directly to their customers.
The Information filed against Conaway alleges that Conaway, who initially worked for another ticket broker, began purchasing from Fryer stolen U.S. Open tickets in 2013, when the U.S. Open was held at the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. The Information alleges that in connection with the 2013 through 2015 U.S. Open tournaments, Conaway sold, through his then-employer, a total of 4,918 stolen U.S. Open tickets that he had obtained from Fryer, with a face value of $774,230. The Information further alleges that starting in 2015, Conaway began selling the stolen tickets through a new ticket broker company he owned and operated, Eagle Eye Ticketing Management, LLC (“Eagle Eye”). In connection with the 2015 through 2019 U.S. Open tournaments, Conaway purchased from Fryer and sold through Eagle Eye 10,586 stolen U.S. Open tournament tickets for $1,789,853, for which defendant Conaway paid Fryer $513,719, thus earning a profit of $1,276,134, which the Information seeks to have forfeited. The Information alleges that all told, whether through his employer or through his own company, Conaway obtained stolen U.S. Open tickets from Fryer that had a face value of $2,428,465, which should have been paid to the USGA for the tickets, thus causing to USGA to lose that amount of ticket revenue.
The Information filed against Bell alleges that Bell, who operated Sherry’s Theater Ticket Agency, Inc. (“Sherry’s”), began purchasing stolen U.S. Open tickets from Fryer in 2017, in advance of the U.S. Open that was held at Erin Hills in Erin, Wisconsin, and continued purchasing stolen tickets through the 2019 U.S. Open. The Information alleges that Bell paid Fryer $324,652 for at least 7,000 stolen U.S. Open tournament tickets, which Bell sold for $922,886, thus yielding a profit of $598,234, which the Information seeks to have forfeited. The Information alleges that all told, Bell obtained stolen U.S. Open tickets from Fryer that had a face value of $1,282,000, which should have been paid to the USGA for the tickets, thus causing to USGA to lose that amount of ticket revenue.
“These defendants allegedly stole revenue from an American insititution and legitimate business that pays taxes, employs many, supports a non-profit organization, and brings excitement and income to our district with U.S. Open events at courses like the Merion Golf Club,” said Acting U. S. Attorney Williams. “Criminals that conduct ticket schemes like this prey on the excitement surrounding big events; fans should remember that any item with a low price that seems ‘too good to be true’ should be cause for caution and concern.”
Conaway and Bell each face a maximum sentence of 100 years in prison, a three-year period of supervised release, a $1,250,000 fine, and a $500 special assessment. In addition, Conaway and Bell each will be required to pay restitution to the USGA and forfeit the proceeds each obtained as a result of their fraud.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael S. Lowe.
Last Updated on October 28, 2021