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Originally published March 30, 2011 at 10:59a.m., updated March 30, 2011 at 01:02p.m.

Former manager of KU athletics ticket office Kassie Liebsch sentenced to 37 months in federal prison

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Kansas Athletics, Inc.

Kassie Liebsch

— A former manager of the KU ticket office is headed to prison for her role in a $2 million ticket scheme that illegally funneled thousands of tickets for Kansas University basketball and football games to brokers and others.

Kassie Liebsch, 28, was sentenced Wednesday to 37 months in prison, after having pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown sentenced Liebsch in the same courtroom where she and six of her former colleagues at Kansas Athletics Inc. have admitted their guilt in the scam, which a KU investigation determined had cost the department more than $3 million.

Liebsch tearfully recounted how her participation began with what she had considered to be a boss simply “being generous,” by giving her cash. Then it quickly turned into another payment, and another, and another.

For five years.

“I never rejected the money,” Liebsch told Brown, reading from prepared notes and interrupted only by her own tears and occasional reassurances from the judge to take her time. “I kept taking the money. I am embarrassed and disappointed in myself that I gave in so easily. …

“I apologize to the university, to all Jayhawks, to my parents and to my friends.”

While Brown accepted her contrition, he rejected her request for probation and ordered that she also be responsible for paying all or part of nearly $1.3 million in restitution to Kansas Athletics. She alone also must pay nearly $80,000 in unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.

“The sentence … is, to me, appropriate, necessary and is made with the understanding and hope that you can carry it out,” Brown said.

Liebsch had faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but federal sentencing guidelines had called for a range of 37 months to 46 months. Prosecutors had sought a sentence at the low end of the guidelines.

Liebsch and four former colleagues — Rodney Jones, Ben Kirtland and Charlette and Thomas Blubaugh — also are subject to a joint $2 million monetary judgment, which allows the federal government to purse their finances and other assets to pay restitution. All five have pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and Liebsch is the first to be sentenced.

Two other former co-workers, Jason Jeffries and Brandon Simmons, earlier had pleaded guilty to failing to report the crime to authorities. Brown already has sentenced Jeffries and Simmons to probation.

Jones, former assistant athletics director in charge of the Williams Fund, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday. He’s the one that Liebsch cited as having given her money to participate in the scam.

Back then, Liebsch was a systems analyst. She’d started work in the department while in college, and had became a full-time employee upon graduation.

The scam lasted for five years, prosecutors say, before unraveling. In early 2010, as federal investigators had been tracking the loss of thousands of missing regular-season tickets, Liebsch had been elevated to run the ticket office.

Then, only after her name was included in a federal indictment released four months ago, did she resign.

On Wednesday, Brown concluded that she’d received $229,271 in proceeds from the larger scheme, one that had prevented thousands of tickets — more than 17,000 for basketball and more than 2,000 for football, according to KU’s investigation — from going to season ticket holders. The tickets instead had been sold to ticket brokers and others for the conspirators’ personal gain.

Liebsch had used some of her “cash proceeds” to buy a 2008 Toyota Camry, prosecutors said, and had placed a “large cash down payment” on a house.

“I used the poorest judgment possible,” Liebsch told the judge, her parents listening from the back row of the gallery. “I loved KU, and I loved KU basketball and I really loved my job.”

Liebsch had requested probation, in part— she said — so she could begin paying restitution. She already has forfeited her car to the government.

Brown rejected the idea of probation. Instead, he ordered that at least 10 percent of any money deposited into her prison trust fund be paid toward restitution. After she completes her prison term, while spending three years on supervised release, she must pay at least 5 percent of her gross monthly income toward restitution.

She and the four other conspirators — all of whom have pleaded guilty, but have yet to be sentenced — share responsibility for paying the nearly $1.3 million in restitution to Kansas Athletics, Brown ruled.

Jones’ attorney has said that Kirtland, former associate athletics director, already has worked out a separate restitution arrangement with the department, but both Kirtland’s attorney and a Kansas Athletics spokesman have declined to comment.

“When all the sentencing is done, we’ll discuss it,” said Jim Marchiony, an associate athletics director.

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Comments

Ted Adams 8 years, 1 month ago

If Liebsch got 37 months, I wonder what Jones and the husband and wife team are going to get? Could end up being fairly significant, but the time in prison really isn't going to accomplish anything. The restitution is more important in my opinion, and being incarcerated doesn't help get that money back at all.

Spencer Goff 8 years, 1 month ago

I'll be shocked if anybody gets more time than her. Not saying it's right, just saying what is.

BewareOfThePhogOnTheWater 8 years, 1 month ago

You do the crime, you pay the time. As far as the money is concerned, you can't get blood out of a turnip. Don't count on getting restitution any time soon. The IRS will get their money first, and then if and/or when there might be a few dollars left over KU might be able to get it. Fortunately, however, their assets may be seized if they haven't been already. That may speed up money going to KU a little, but I'm not going to hold my breath on a $2 Million payment from these criminals to KU Athletics.

Also, I still say that this isn't over. There is still at least one "bigger fish" out there that is going to fry.

jayhawkinATL 8 years, 1 month ago

Way to make an example out of them!!!!!

jayhawkinATL 8 years, 1 month ago

She's only sorry because she got caught.

Stan Unruh 8 years, 1 month ago

I do not understand how she was able to stay on the job as long as she did?

Andy Tweedy 8 years, 1 month ago

That smile she's sporting looks like the kind a 4th grader forces when they don't want their school picture taken. I'd say loosen up, but I suppose she's got a lot on her mind.

jhox 8 years, 1 month ago

None of these people will ever have another job which earns them enough money to even make a dent in the $1,300,000 restitution agreement. Their only hope would be if some of them go into business for themselves, and make a success of it. Otherwise, none of them will ever be employable in good paying jobs.

It's good that the courts are making an example of them. I hope it opens the eyes of people who may be in a position to do something similar and makes them think twice before doing it.

I'm still shocked that this many (supposedly) educated people could have thought they would get away with something on this scale, indefinitely. What idiots.

Rob Kanavy 8 years, 1 month ago

37 months is a pretty significant sentence for a white collar crime. I have seen doctors who bilk medicare/medicade for millions who don't get sentences close to that.

kureader 8 years, 1 month ago

You're absolutely right about the sentence as it relates to the amount of money involved. I'd have preferred a more aggressive restitution arrangement and less jail time ... as it stands now, KU won't see a dime. Clearly, there's more interest in punishment, here, than recouping KU's money.

The bigger issue is how the IRS can make off with more money than the thieves. Meanwhile, KU gets left in the cold. At a minimum KU should get their money back first. Frankly, the IRS shouldn't be involved at all. We're talking about income here. This is stolen property whose value should be returned to the owner (not really interested in legal rationalizations defending the IRS's right to confiscate money that should have been returned to KU).

Oddly, the ticket brokers who made the most money are in the clear. Lesson learned? "It's OK to sell stolen property as long as you give Uncle Sam his share".

Gig 8 years, 1 month ago

KU reader, I'm happy with the sentence. No matter what restitution arrangement is ordered, Kassie could never satisfy it. She's already blown all the money. Whatever small amount was left was probably used to pay her attorney's fees. The maximum sentence hopefully will be a deterrent to the future Rodneys against this type of misconduct.

stm62 8 years, 1 month ago

The maximum sentence was still extremely lenient for the crimes commited, not to mention the embarrassment brought to the university and the jayhawk nation. She's an extremely fortunate young woman to receive such a short sentence in a FEDERAL pen. Full justice? No. A measure of justice? Yes.

Lana Christie-Hayes 8 years, 1 month ago

Justice is served on a plate in the federal penn!! I'll bet it doesn't taste nearly as good as the steak and lobster she was feeding on for 5..count 'em .. 5 years!!

Ty Mar 8 years, 1 month ago

Great so now our tax dollars have to pay for this....smart smart.

bbhawk234 8 years, 1 month ago

She will do plenty of serve in the big house.

bbhawk234 8 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

slubert 8 years, 1 month ago

Not to take anything away from the fact that what she did was wrong, but she was taken advantage of by Jones and the others. Fresh out of college in a new job, I guarantee the "extra income" and assurance from her boss that they would never get caught clouded her judgment. I hope the others get a stronger sentence as they were the masterminds and profited more than this young girl. It is really a shame, but the university needs to accept some of the blame for allowing a structure like this to exist.

kuhawksr1 8 years, 1 month ago

So glad she went down in flames. How are the financial penalties going to put me in the seats I was entitled to but didn't get because of this bunch? As the WEF member and season ticket holder I got screwed. Amazing how much better my opportunities have been as it related to tickets and seat locations since this all blew up. They should consider permanent bonus points for anyone impacted. We were the ones that got the shaft.

David Atchley 8 years, 1 month ago

Those located in the Kansas City metro are insulated and naive from the laughing-stock the Kansas Athletic program has become around the country. They have become a "punch-line" with the Mark Mangino debacle, the Lew Perkins immunity resignation, the "brain-trust" from of all god-forsaken places, Oklahoma that was in charge of tickets, and most of all, the inability for their arrogant basketball coach to get them past the basketball powerhouses of University of Northern Iowa, Bucknell, and of late "Virginia Commonwealth. If not for a desperation last second hail-mary from Mario Chalmers, there would most likely be a new basketball coach, who with the second largest recruiting budget in the country, might be able to actually recruit, much less match wits with the mid-major basketball coaches.

Ludwig Supraphonic 8 years, 1 month ago

You joined this site following our Elite 8 loss hoping to find some meaning in your otherwise pointless existance. I don't suppose you have to be a Jayhawk to find some pleasure in KU sports. Your two posts have provided me some diversion. Thanks for acknowledging the importance of KU.

kureader 8 years, 1 month ago

Sounds as through you should move to the Kansas City metro where you, too, could be insulated and naive. Here in "la la land KC", life is good. We're still proud of KU. We like Bill Self and think he's a modest guy, a great recruiter and a smart coach. We're pretty much over Mangino and Perkins, who have been gone for some time now, and we're looking forwards not backwards.

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