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Originally published March 31, 2011 at 11:08a.m., updated March 31, 2011 at 02:05p.m.

Former KU athletics fundraiser Rodney Jones sentenced to 46 months in federal prison

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— The former leader of fundraising for Kansas University athletics was sentenced Thursday morning to nearly four years in prison for taking part in a $2 million ticket scheme that illegally delivered thousands of tickets for KU basketball and football games to brokers and others.

Rodney Jones, who had led the ticket office for Kansas Athletics Inc. before becoming assistant athletics director for the Williams Fund, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison. He had pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Jones also must pay all or part of nearly $1.2 million in restitution to Kansas Athletics, and alone is responsible for paying nearly $114,000 to the Internal Revenue Service to cover unpaid federal taxes, U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown ruled.

In court, Jones said he wanted to “deeply apologize” to federal authorities, Kansas Athletics, all Jayhawk fans, as well as his family, friends — and, especially, to his son, Parker.

“I have made a terrible mistake that I will continue to pay for for the rest of my life,” Jones said.

Sentencing

Brown sentenced Jones in U.S. District Court in Wichita, where a day earlier the judge had sentenced one of Jones’ former colleagues — Kassie Liebsch — to 37 months in prison. It’s also where five other former colleagues already have pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme, which prosecutors say lasted for five years before all resigned in the wake of a scandal that a KU investigation said cost the department more than $3 million.

Jones and his fellow conspirators took tickets — more than 17,000 for men’s basketball, and more than 2,000 for football, according to the KU investigation — that otherwise would have been available for members of the Williams Fund and others. The tickets then were sold through brokers and provided to others for the conspirators’ personal gain.

The KU report concluded that Jones was a “selfish person who mistreated employees who were not in his favor,” and was someone who provided free tickets to friends, softball teammates and others. Among the beneficiaries was a landlord who had agreed to accept reduced rent payments in exchange for expected priority points in the Williams Fund.

“I have let many individuals down,” Jones told Brown.

‘I accept full responsibility’

Like Liebsch, Jones had faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. But federal sentencing guidelines suggested that Jones should get between 46 and 57 months in prison.

Prosecutors had sought a sentence at the low end of the guidelines, while Jones and his attorney had urged a sentence of probation, community service, house arrest or placement in a halfway house.

In court documents, Jones maintained that he should receive consideration for probation because of his cooperation with prosecutors and investigators, including special agents from the FBI and IRS, and with the Kansas Board of Ethics. He also wanted to begin paying restitution sooner and fulfill his parental duties.

Brown acknowledged the contentions but sided with prosecutors, who said Jones’ “extensive and protracted” criminal conduct had brought him “vast wealth” that had allowed him to maintain an apartment on the Plaza In Kansas City, Mo., “frittering away his money on an extensive rolling party scene that persevered for five years.” The restitution total is based largely on Jones’ financial disclosures, which investigators had used polygraph testing to assess.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions,” Jones told Brown, and later indicated that he fully intends to pay back the money owed to Kansas Athletics and the IRS.

Brown ruled that at least 10 percent of any money deposited in Jones’ prison trust fund must go toward restitution. Then, after Jones is released from prison, at least 5 percent of his gross monthly income must go toward restitution during his three years of supervised release.

Among justifications for the sentence: “The defendant engaged in a conspiracy to defraud, and it went on for an extended period of time and caused extensive damage,” Brown said.

Restitution

Jones and four former colleagues — Liebsch, Ben Kirtland and Charlette and Thomas Blubaugh — also share responsibility for a $2 million monetary judgment, which allows the federal government to pursue their finances and other assets that may have been amassed as a result of the criminal conspiracy. All have pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and the Blubaughs will be sentenced April 14, while Kirtland’s sentencing is set May 12.

Two other former co-workers — Jason Jeffries and Brandon Simmons — earlier had pleaded guilty to failing to report the crime to authorities. Brown placed them on probation.

Richard Hathaway, an assistant U.S. attorney who is prosecuting the cases, explained after Thursday’s hearing that restitution is ordered to help make victims “whole,” while forfeiture allows the government to prevent criminals from keeping any ill-gotten gains.

Brown ordered that Kansas Athletics Inc. is due a total of $1,197,084 in restitution, a total due jointly from all the conspirators in the wire fraud: Jones and Liebsch, who have been sentenced; and the Blubaughs and Kirtland, who still await sentencing. And Jones alone owes $113,843 in back taxes to the IRS, while Liebsch owes $79,864.

Kansas Athletics also may seek reimbursement through any assets that may be forfeited — Liebsch already has voluntarily given up a 2008 Toyota Camry that she’d purchased with cash proceeds from the scam, for example — but KU would not be able to receive a combination of restitution and forfeited assets that totaled more than $2 million.

But victims and the government rarely get all the money owed to them, Hathaway said.

“As a practical matter, by the time the case is closed, the money has been spent on attorneys’ fees and it has been frittered away,” Hathaway said. “But we always remain hopeful.”

KU officials aren’t saying yet whether they plan to seek reimbursement through forfeiture proceedings, preferring to wait until all of the conspirators have been sentenced.

“From when we first learned of these crimes, the KU community has been seeking justice,” said Jack Martin, a spokesman for KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “Through these sentences, that justice is in the process of being delivered. We would like to thank the federal investigators and prosecutors for their diligent work in this case.”

Comments

irvan moore 8 years, 1 month ago

hey JW, how much time do they have to serve before they are elgible for an early release since that's what will probably happen.

flux 8 years, 1 month ago

Not on the Federal level..... 46 months is 46 months

Funhawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Interesting comment about the sound of the reading voice within your mind. Other sport stories (not necessarily on this website) are written in a Hemingway voice, IMO. Its that Hemingway overly dramatic writing style that some sport journalists use. Since I don't know what Hemingway's voice sounded like, the voice I hear when I read the Hemingway sport stories is the voice of Rod Serling on The Night Gallery or the Twilight Zone. I can't help it. Lots of drama all centered around a round, bouncy ball, a court, and a basket. Thanks for the interesting comment about writing styles.

hawksquawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Since Hemingway was, after all, a journalist, maybe he owes a good portion of his style to journalism, and not the other way around ;)

I like the Morgan Freeman voice, personally. After I read that comment, I had to go back and check it out.

I might also suggest reading it in the voice of Sheriff John Bunnell (the guy on America's Most Wanted).

Funhawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for the tip. I'll try that. LOL. I'm hearing voices in my head.

HawkTronic 8 years, 1 month ago

I prefer Gilbert Godfried - at least for the quotes from Jones.

Kent Wells 8 years, 1 month ago

Just read the Jones quotes in the voice of Pee Wee Herman, complete with that stupid laugh every now and then. And then, right after the I'm so sorry I got caught part, throw in a "I know you are, but what am I?". And then imagine Jones doing the big shoe dance for his new roommate. I'm sure it will be a hit!

dynamitehawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Awesome idea. I just re-read in Billy Bob Thorton's character from Slingblade. That made it much more dramatic, Ummmmhmmm.

Kent Wells 8 years, 1 month ago

In prison, he can ask for some of them french fried potaters, ummmmhuuuh.

stm62 8 years, 1 month ago

The little weasel asked for probation? 46 months? He deserves at least 10 years.

kuballhawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Agreed. He gave me the creeps ever since I met him. Figured he had to be up to something besides just "picking up" college girls... I would've thought he would serve at least five years since that's how long the scandal lasted.

AS 8 years, 1 month ago

If he was a black man he would of got 10 year easy!!!!

missmagoo 8 years, 1 month ago

Should have thought about your "parental duties" sooner, dude.

Andy Tweedy 8 years, 1 month ago

It should have read "I have made a terrible mistake that I will continue to pay for for the rest of my life. In getting caught, I have let down my family and all those other dirtbags who screwed the good people Kansas out of millions of dollars." And another thing...if my spouse all of a sudden had a few hundred thousand extra dollars, I'd sure as Hell wondered where it came from. Am I really supposed to believe his family was clueless to the scam?

Bill Klein 8 years, 1 month ago

you do the full time in federal prisons i believe.

Aligned 8 years, 1 month ago

It’s too bad incompetence isn’t a crime, because I’d like to see LP keeping Rotten Rodney company for the next 46 months.

Aligned 8 years, 1 month ago

This Bozo should’ve been sentenced to the maximum, not the minimum.

jehovah_bob 8 years, 1 month ago

". . . we're not going to white-collar resort prison. No, no, no. We're going to federal POUND ME IN THE A** prison."

Kent Wells 8 years, 1 month ago

See the trick is, the first day, you kick somebody's a**, or you become somebody's beeyatch.

Pretty reasonable advice for dude. And, maybe if you do the rock chalk chant in your cell every evening, they might think you are a wee bit nutty and leave you alone. Although, on tjhe other hand, he has dishonored the university and should be banned from the chant.

Imagine the conversation with his new roomie:

You ever made love to a man?

NO!

You want to?

Dyrk Dugan 8 years, 1 month ago

i believe Mr. Jones...and it's obvious the authorities do to...was the ringleader. he was the "idea man chuck." it was his brainchild that this could be done...and with the help of the Lawrence developer, he was able to set up acct. washing properties...and allow this scheme to develop.

again, this is Lew's legacy left to us. a bad womens basketball team, his own salary boosted because of KU-MU ballgame at Arrowhead, and this. it's not much of a record if you ask me.

Frightwig 8 years, 1 month ago

"this is Lew's legacy left to us...it's not much of a record if you ask me."

Like him or not, he was the most successful AD in KU's history. Fund raising records were set, facilities were improved, he negotiated the Orange Bowl appearance and we won a national championship during his tenure. KU athletics were never better under anyone else's leadership.

Maracas 8 years, 1 month ago

Rodney's five-year rolling party has screeched to a stop. He's gotten what he deserved. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy.

4everahawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Rodney has been divorced for several years now, so don't believe there was anyone directly linked to him that would have questioned his new found wealth. Perhaps all his party buddies thought KAI was footing the bill for the parties as 'fundraising' events! And, actually KAI WAS paying for it...just didn't know they were.!

Andy Tweedy 8 years, 1 month ago

I can't imagine why he's divorced...seems like such an upstanding guy!

Jeremy Bolinger 8 years, 1 month ago

I know I'm in the small minority, but I would've been satisfied with this tool paying quadruple the amount of fines, and not serving time. I know, crucify me. But my tax dollars fund prisons. I think its a waste of time to make him serve 4 years. I know, I know, im in the minority.

lbranchcrew 8 years, 1 month ago

I'm with you on your opinion, but only with this stipulation... he's required to work a minimum wage job with no chance of raises or increases until his debt is paid in full.

kureader 8 years, 1 month ago

I'm with you. I understand that people want to see punishment, but I'd like to see KU get some of its money back. That won't happen with these yeahoos in prison.

And, I'm still hung up on the idea that somehow the IRS can step in front of KU to confiscate money. This wasn't income. It was stolen property, and the proceeds should ALL be returned to KU.

I'm also wondering why a couple ticket brokers haven't been named. In their case, you'd think there WOULD be some unreported income to discover. It's not like the investigators don't know who they are.

Geekinout 8 years, 1 month ago

That's because the real crooks are the IRS. Taxation without representation these days. It's amazing how much they reap and how powerful they've become.. But I guess as some would say, "RABBLE, RABBLE, RABBLE, RABBLE, RABBLE, RABBLE, RABBLE, etc, etc."

ahpersecoachingexperience 8 years, 1 month ago

The producers of A&E's beyond scared straight and espn are in the process of creating a show where at risk athletic programs visit our former ticket office employees in jail.

eathorse5 8 years, 1 month ago

Rodney Jones is an good guy, he knew what he did was wrong and he ready for his punishment. Doug hope ya hook him up when he gets out...

crimsonwithblue22 8 years, 1 month ago

Frightwig, you're consistent with your backing of Lew I'll give ya that.

I'd say KU was ALWAYS better under Phog Allen's leadership as AD (1919-1937) and as basketball coach. Who do you think led the charge and fundraising campaignn to build Memorial Stadium? Who do you think led the charge for a new fieldhouse and it was appropriately named after him? Who won 3 national championships, two recognized by the Helms Foundation and one in the NCAA tournament (which he led the charge to create and helped found because the NIT was so corrupt)? Who truly BUILT the tradition of excellence for which so many have benefited?

Now, who came in and leveraged that already built traditon and history for mostly the benefit of HIMSELF? Who did not hire either the coach of the Orange Bowl team nor the coach of the national championship basketball team in '08? Who was best at stepping in front of the parade? Who was great at pissing away so much of that raised and mostly blackmailed money? Who ruled with fear as opposed to earned respect?

If Lew is to take/get credit for success, let's hang the early round basketball exits on him as well, the 7 game football losing streak on him ( and mid-season PR nightmare ), the poor overall finishing of ALL our athletic programs during his tenure.

What coaches did he hire at KU and how's that judgement lookin'? What administrators did he hire and how are they lookin'? ( April 14th we'll have Bipsy and Bopsy Blubaugh slated for sentencing, May 12th we'll parade the "architect of the points system" at UConn in front of the judge for his sentencing as well )

Never better? I won't even talk about the LOST contributions and the fundraising shortages of the last few years due to the embarrassment that became Lew's legacy. Oh, when can we expect construction to start on that fancy new gridiron elitist club/fiasco? ( I'm thinkin' they may have to be happy with those leather lazy boys in the endzone a few years longer than expected. ) Pass the pipe, you've had enough

Frightwig 8 years, 1 month ago

I stand corrected. That having been said, Lew was the most successful AD since Phog Allen.

4ABetterKU 8 years, 1 month ago

I do not believe it is grammatically correct to use "Lew" and "successful" in the same sentence.

If you need proof, check out the current National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics rankings of university athletic programs, where KU is currently ranked in a tie for 103rd place. KU can and should be much better.

Here is the link to the NACDA rankings:

http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/nacda/sports/directorscup/auto_pdf/DIMarch24.pdf

kureader 8 years, 1 month ago

Interesting info about Phog Allen. I didn't know some of it.

If I ever slip up and say something nice about LP on this blog, just ignore me.

thesloss 8 years, 1 month ago

JW - who (& why) removes the LP Ticket Scandal articles from website less than 24 hrs after posting?

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