Advertisement

Originally published July 7, 2010 at 01:37p.m., updated July 8, 2010 at 07:45a.m.

Two guilty pleas expected in KU athletics ticket scandal

Both Jason Jeffries and Brandon Simmons are accused of knowing about the ticket thefts and not reporting them. Jeffries' lawyer comments on the situation.

Advertisement

photo

Journal-World File Photo

Jason Jeffries, former assistant director of ticket operations, in a 2005 file photo. Jeffries and Brandon Simmons, former assistant athletics director for sales and marketing, were charged in a ticket scandal investigation in which KU Athletics allegedly lost millions of dollars.

photo

Brandon W. Simmons

Two former Kansas Athletics Inc. employees are facing federal charges that they knew about a ticket-theft scheme without telling authorities in a timely manner.

Both intend to plead guilty, and at least one intends to continue assisting federal authorities as they pursue cases spawned by a scandal that a Kansas University investigation already has found to have involved nearly 20,000 regular-season basketball and football tickets — up to $3 million in tickets found to have been stolen from Kansas Athletics and sold for personal gain.

Brandon W. Simmons, a former assistant athletics director, and Jason Jeffries, a former assistant director of ticket operations, each is charged with misprision of a felony, which is itself a felony punishable by up to up to three years in prison.

Tom Haney, a Topeka attorney representing Jeffries, said that his client would plead guilty as part of an agreement with prosecutors that could help them continue to build cases against others.

“Mr. Jeffries has always cooperated with the investigation from day one, and will continue to cooperate with the government,” Haney said. “We’ve decided it’s in his best interest to enter a plea of guilty and continue to cooperate with the investigation. …

“It provides finality and he can get on with his life. He’s never done anything but cooperate and will continue to cooperate.”

Both Simmons and Jeffries are among six people identified by an internal investigation conducted for Kansas University pertaining to the ticket-fraud scheme.

Stolen tickets

The internal investigation found that nearly 20,000 tickets for regular-season basketball and football games had been stolen by employees and sold for personal gain. The thefts occurred from 2005 to 2010, and were said to have cost the department anywhere from $1 million to $3 million.

Haney declined to identify who else might be the subject of his client’s cooperation, although he said that Jeffries was “being lumped in with the real wrongdoers. Some of the folks mentioned are way above my client’s pay scale.”

KU’s own report implicated four others along with Simmons and Jeffries:

• Charlette Blubaugh, former associate director of ticket operations.

• Rodney Jones, former assistant athletics director for the Williams Educational Fund.

• Ben Kirtland, former associate athletics director for development.

• Tom Blubaugh, Charlette’s husband and a former consultant for ticket operations.

Federal authorities, including the FBI and IRS, have been working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate the case, and their work led KU officials to order their own investigation. KU Athletics Director Lew Perkins, who recently announced plans to retire in September 2011, has said that he first learned of the federal investigation in December.

Simmons joined the KU ticket office in 2005 and was promoted to assistant athletics director for sales and marketing in December. Jeffries started in the ticket office in 2003 and became assistant director of ticket operations in 2004.

Both resigned in April, a little over a month after KU ordered its own investigation and nearly a month before its results were released.

Campus to courtroom

Now, Simmons and Jeffries become the first two former employees to face charges in connection with the case, which is moving from campus to the courtroom.

“This is a federal case at this point,” said Mark Bennett, Simmons’ attorney.

Simmons and Jeffries are scheduled to hear the charge against them read by U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Humphreys in Wichita at 10:30 a.m. July 14 for Jeffries and July 15 for Simmons. That’s when they’ll be required to formally plead not guilty.

Jeffries is scheduled to stand before U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown at 11 a.m. July 14 for a change of plea hearing. Simmons will do the same thing at 11 a.m. July 15. That’s when each will be expected to plead guilty.

“There has been expressed a desire to plead guilty,” said Jim Cross, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, who noted that defendants are not required to do so.

Neither Simmons nor Jeffries has signed a plea agreement. Jeffries will be expected to sign his following the second hearing, Haney said.

One of the investigators involved with KU’s own probe has said that he expects federal cases to reach beyond regular-season tickets, and to involve more money lost. That’s because the KU investigation covered only regular-season tickets that could be documented.

Tickets for post-season basketball and football games were not addressed in KU’s internal report.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the day of Jason Jeffries' hearings. He will apear July 14.

Comments

kuhoopsfan 8 years, 11 months ago

This is good news. It will be interesting to see how this develops. This looks like the beginning of a plea agreement. If so, there will likely be information revealed as part of the agreement that was unable to be discovered by the internal investigation. I wouldn't be surprised if more individuals in the athletic department are involved before it's all over.

Dyrk Dugan 8 years, 11 months ago

More individuals? are you talking folks that have already been removed from the department? then yes, more names will come out...because of the theft, fraud and paying no income taxes crimes.

if other names emerge, that have not already been named, then i would be fairly stunned.

kuhoopsfan 8 years, 11 months ago

I'm talking about individuals that have not already been named. As I said in a previous post I feel it is very "convenient" that the only guilty parties named in the report were no longer employed by the athletic department. Is it possible that those already named were the only ones involved? ... Sure ... Is it likely? ... I would say no. I guess we'll see before long.

Marcia Parsons 8 years, 11 months ago

You may be right, but I don't think so. Those charged would have been shouting the other names from the rooftops. It isn't "convenient" that those involved are no longer employed. They either resigned or were fired as soon as their involvement was discovered. They weren't accused because they were gone, they're gone because they were accused.

TxJyHwk 8 years, 11 months ago

While they are no longer working for the department, most of them were still working there when the investigation started. In fact, one of them was responsible for some of the information gathering.

Dyrk Dugan 8 years, 11 months ago

yes, we shall see. the only other folks granted access to tickets at such a high level are coaches, other associate ADs.....and folks like Mr. Perkins and Mr. Marchiony...and i highly doubt these folks mentioned were involved.

Lew has already testified in front of a grand jury, and he wasn't a target of their investigation.

of course, the possibility is there, that others are involved, but who could they possibly be? it's just not very likely....this isn't a "law and order" episode...where the detectives start down one road, and they eventually get taken down the opposite road.

it's fairly cut and dried here...again, i would be very surprised if the story or players altered much from this point forward.

kuhoopsfan 8 years, 11 months ago

I hope you're right. My sense that this was more widespread is based on a statement from Simmons contained in the internal report. It was quoted in a previous article and went as follows:

“Other individuals that I worked with were receiving the same or similar benefits,” Simmons said of the extra tickets, in a statement provided to investigators. “Then, as I was there longer, I found it to be pervasive and that Charlette and her supervisor Ben (Kirtland) were involved at significantly higher levels along with Rodney Jones.”

The key word in that statement is "pervasive". That's not a word I would apply to just 5 or 6 individuals.

Also, as stated in the revised article above, the internal report did not deal with post-season tickets. As we know from the Yahoo Sports report, that's where the really big dollars are. Many people have access to post-season tickets. Dating back to 1991, I was always able to obtain Final 4 tickets through the Williams Fund. In 2008, despite increased contributions that raised my ranking, I was unable to get tickets. I suspect many of these were stolen as well.

jaybate 8 years, 11 months ago

Time to punch one of those buttons on receptionist's desks.

"Well, that was easy."

klineisanazi 8 years, 11 months ago

Pretty standard stuff. Get the bit players to plead to lesser charges and go after the big boys. The big question is who is (are) the target(s)? Might even be somebody outside the department for all we know. This just guarantees the speculation will continue.

minnhawk84 8 years, 11 months ago

There are the criminal charges involving fraud, theft and so on, but the one that is going to "slam the door" on many of these folks is the IRS and the tax issues from not reporting the income. Go stand at Al Capone's grave and ask him what ultimately did him in......not the Illinois State Court System, not the Federal Criminal Court System, but the IRS Court System. Most Americans don't realize that the IRS has its own court system which is totally separate from the criminal and civil federal court system........an IRS court system that can freeze bank accounts and assets prior to anyone being proven guilty, a court system that can refuse to pay if it loses a tax case. My father and his partners won a large judgement in IRS court in 1985. Dad went to his grave making me promise to continue the fight to get that settlement. Ask me how that fight is going.............

jaybate 8 years, 11 months ago

minnhawk84,

"Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes the laws." --Mayer Amschel Rothschild

Commenting has been disabled for this item.