Tuesday, June 28, 2011
The last co-conspirator in an operation that stole and sold thousands of tickets for Kansas University basketball and football games is behind bars, awaiting designation in a federal medical complex in Massachusetts.
Ben Kirtland, former associate athletics director for development at Kansas Athletics Inc., arrived last week at Federal Medical Center Devens, 39 miles west of Boston. He is serving a 57-month term for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, tax obstruction and transportation of stolen property across state lines.
Kirtland is scheduled to be released Aug. 8, 2015.
“That’s no guarantee,” said Bob Lanza, a prison spokesman. “That’s as long as he behaves.”
For now, Kirtland is incarcerated inside the prison’s Special Housing Unit, reserved for inmates awaiting designation. He must clear medical tests and other screenings before joining many of the other 1,000 minimum- to maximum-security inmates held on the decommissioned army base.
While more than half of inmates are assigned to Devens for medical reasons, Lanza said, a medical or mental health condition is not a requirement.
“He’s in a cell, either by himself or with another inmate,” Lanza said. “He’s in there 23 hours a day. He gets one hour a day of recreation, and he is escorted to that. His meals are served to him three times a day.”
The routine likely will continue for another couple weeks, until testing and screenings — such as those for tuberculosis — are complete. Kirtland cannot qualify to have visitors until he has been cleared for general population.
Kirtland is the fifth of five co-conspirators in the tickets scheme, which rocked Kansas Athletics Inc. and preceded the early retirement of Lew Perkins as athletics director.
An internal investigation conducted for the department and KU found that from 2005 through 2009, more than 19,000 tickets for men’s basketball and at least 2,000 tickets for football had been taken by insiders, then distributed or sold through brokers and otherwise for personal gain.
The KU investigation estimated the university’s losses at $1 million to $3 million, with its lead investigator speculating that the total likely was much higher. Prosecutors pegged the loss at $2 million.
Others sent to prison:
• Charlette Blubaugh, former associate athletics director for ticket operations, is being held at the Federal Medical Center Carswell, which provides specialized medical and mental health services to female offenders in Fort Worth, Texas. She is serving a 57-month sentence, and authorities have not yet calculated her expected release date.
• Rodney Jones, former assistant athletics director for the Williams Fund, is in a federal prison camp at El Reno, Okla., 30 miles west of Oklahoma City. He is scheduled to complete his 46-month sentence Sept. 2, 2014.
• Thomas Blubaugh, a former tickets consultant for Kansas Athletics, also is at the El Reno prison camp, serving a 46-month sentence. His expected release date has not yet been determined.
• Kassie Liebsch, a former systems analyst who assumed ticket operations following Charlette Blubaugh’s resignation, is at Federal Correctional Institution Greenville, 43 miles east of St. Louis, serving a 37-month sentence. Her expected release date is Jan. 7, 2014.
Two other former department employees — Jason Jeffries and Brandon Simmons — are on federal probation after pleading guilty to failing to notify authorities about the tickets scam.