A Pennsylvania ticket broker was sentenced to six months of prison time and three years of supervised release for his role in a scheme that involved an insider stealing tickets to U.S. Open golf tournaments to sell on the secondary market. James Bell, who owns and operates Sherry’s Theater Ticket Agency, Inc., was also ordered to forfeit over $598,000 in profits from the scheme, as well as pay $1,282,247 in restitution to the USGA by U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson.

Another ticket broker – Jeremi Michael Conaway – and the USGA employee at the center of the scheme Robert Fryer were also implicated in the scheme. Both have pleaded guilty for their roles and are awaiting sentencing.

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.

“Bell stole revenue from the USGA, a 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 golf courses around the region,” said U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier 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.”

“This defendant’s actions are akin to a thief selling someone else’s property to make a quick buck,” said Special Agent in Charge Jacqueline Maguire. “The fraud at the center of this conspiracy took money from a legitimate business and earned this defendant a ticket to prison and a felony conviction to his name.”

The case is similar to a recent incident where two employee of the Chicago White Sox stole tickets and routed them to a ticket broker for resale on the secondary market. In that instance, the ticket broker received jail time for his crimes, while the former team employees running the scam got probation after testifying their former partner.