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Originally published December 7, 2010 at 05:21p.m., updated December 8, 2010 at 09:40a.m.

Former Kansas Athletics Inc. employees headed to court in KU ticket scandal case

From left, Ben Kirtland, Kassie Liebsch, Rodney Jones and Charlette Blubaugh have been charged with stealing tickets from KU. Also charged was Tom Blubaugh, who is not pictured.

From left, Ben Kirtland, Kassie Liebsch, Rodney Jones and Charlette Blubaugh have been charged with stealing tickets from KU. Also charged was Tom Blubaugh, who is not pictured.

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Videos dating back to June 2009 related to the ticket scandal at KU.

Five people who raised money from Kansas University ticket buyers, oversaw KU ticket operations or worked to help manage the school’s ticket operations are headed to federal court to face charges they stole tickets from the university and together cost Kansas Athletics Inc. up to $5 million.

Five defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearances at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Wichita, each facing a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their role in an alleged ticket scheme involving tickets to football and basketball games from 2005 to 2010:

• Charlette Blubaugh, former director of ticket operations.

• Tom Blubaugh, Charlette Blubaugh’s husband and a former paid consultant to Kansas Athletics Inc.

• Rodney Jones, a former assistant athletics director in charge of the Williams Educational Fund.

• Ben Kirtland, Jones’ former boss and former associate athletics director for development.

• Kassie Liebsch, former director of ticket operations.

The five are scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale. Each may choose to waive Gale’s reading of the indictment, which had been filed Nov. 18.

The defendants will be required to plead not guilty to the charge, and Gale also will consider other procedural matters, such as setting bonds and scheduling hearings. A conviction would be punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

The case already has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown.

Two of their former coworkers already have pleaded guilty to failing to inform authorities about the ticket scheme, and are awaiting sentencing. Those employees — Brandon Simmons and Jason Jeffries — entered their pleas at separate hearings immediately following their first appearances, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Simmons and Jeffries were not named in the latest indictment, one that was reached by a grand jury in Topeka.

The indictment outlines a “scheme” and “conspiracy” that started in 2005, when Charlette Blubaugh is alleged to have started taking tickets and distributing them to the others for sale to third parties — through individuals and ticket brokers — in violation of university policies.

The indictment alleges that the individuals entered false information into a computer system designed to prevent ticket theft; paid kickbacks to third parties not connected with the ticket office; had checks written to third parties; and had checks written by ticket brokers to third parties.

The indictment also alleges that they concealed the receipt of their outside income on reports required by NCAA rules.

Prosecutors have indicated that they plan to seek a judgment of $3 million to $5 million from the defendants.

An investigation financed by and conducted on behalf of KU determined that the scheme involved more than 17,000 tickets for men’s basketball and more than 2,000 tickets for football, all for regular season games.

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Comments

LawHawk2011 8 years, 5 months ago

"The defendants will be required to plead not guilty to the charge" I'm fairly certain that they won't be "required" to plead not guilty.

Jonathan Kealing 8 years, 5 months ago

Something about federal court policy requires defendants to plead not guilty at this stage of the game. A second hearing would be required if they want to plead guilty. It's a strange process to me, but that's why when Brandon Simmons and Jason Jeffries pleaded guilty, they had two hearings on the same day.

Gordon Penny 8 years, 5 months ago

5 years times 16 home games a year = 80 games. 17,000 tickets divided by 80 games = 212.5 tickets per game. How did this happen? That is a lot of tickets! I guess, 16,300 seats at Allen divided by 212.5 tickets is only 1.3% of the fieldhouse, but still. I can't even imagine how they thought they would get away with this for long. Throw the book at them, I say.

ahpersecoachingexperience 8 years, 5 months ago

Subtract the student section and the percentage goes way up. If hope theses guys get the book thrown at the.

kureader 8 years, 5 months ago

Previous reports indicated that others outside the athletic department were involved with this. Are they off the hook, or is there another process later that will include them?

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