An Illinois jury returned a guilty verdict against a Bruce Lee, owner of a Chicago-based ticket brokerage who was accused of selling hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of tickets to Chicago White Sox games that he had been illegally provided by team insiders. Lee’s alleged co-conspirators – James Costello and William O’Neil, had previously entered guilty pleas related to their participation in the scheme.
“This case is about greed,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider had told the jury prior to its deliberations. The indictment claimed that Lee earned more than $860,000 by selling nearly 35,000 tickets to White Sox games during the 2016, ’17, ’18 and ’19 seasons. As prosecutors outlined at trial, Costello and O’Neil would procure comp tickets for Chicago White Sox games, exchanging them for cash provided by Lee. The broker would them sell the tickets on the secondary market using websites like StubHub.com, often for below the face value for the seat locations. The arrangement was in place for several seasons, until another team employee caught on at some point in 2018.
Lee’s attorney says he believes that the jury “got it wrong” and that he and Lee will “continue to fight” against the conviction. “They didn’t look at the evidence that the government presented,” Nishay Sanan wrote in an email to the Chicago Tribune. “The evidence presented by the government was bleak at best.”
According to the indictment, the team insiders had generated the tickets by exploiting voucher systems designed to be used for bulk ticket purchase by youth groups, corporate sponsors and players’ friends and families. The loss suffered by the team over the lifetime of the scheme was estimated at $1 million.
In the end, it was the team’s data access through the secondary market that tripped Lee and his co-conspirators up. StubHub shares its ticket resale data with MLB teams, which allowed the Chicago White Sox analysis to catch on to the fact that Lee’s account was responsible for the overwhelming majority of White Sox tickets sold through the website. In July 2018, Lee reportedly sold 10,000 more tickets than the next three highest sellers on the marketplace, combined.
Lee is slated to be sentenced in a hearing scheduled for January 10, 2022.