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Archive for Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Four former KU Athletics officials enter not guilty pleas at preliminary hearing in Wichita; another defendant set for plea change in January

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.

December 8, 2010, 2:30 p.m. Updated December 8, 2010, 7:48 p.m.

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KU Ticket Investigation

Four former Kansas Athletics employees and one current employee have been federally charged and two former employees have pleaded guilty in a scandal involving millions of dollars of stolen tickets from the university.

KU ticket scandal

David Ray Freeman, a Lawrence builder, pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to commit bank fraud in connection with an anticipated building boom in Junction City.

— While four of her former colleagues were entering not guilty pleas in U.S. District Court, Kansas Athletics' former director of ticket operations was taking steps to change her plea and — perhaps — begin cooperating with investigators.

Kassie Liebsch, the only individual among the five former KU officials indicted last month not to appear at an arraignment hearing before a magistrate judge in Wichita Wednesday afternoon, is now scheduled to be at a change of plea hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Wesley E. Brown at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 21.

There's no question about her intent, said Jim Cross, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas.

"Pleading guilty is pleading guilty," Cross said. "A change of plea hearing means a hearing for the purpose of pleading guilty."

Liebsch's attorney, David Bell, declined to comment on his client's plans.

Two other former athletic officials, Jason Jeffries and Brandon Simmons, went through a similar process earlier this year. Those defendants pleaded guilty to misprision — failing to inform authorities about illegal ticket operations — and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. They now await sentencing.

Lanny Welch, who handled prosecutors’ responsibilities during Wednesday’s arraignments and serves as criminal division chief for the U.S. Attorney’s office, declined to discuss any arrangements that may be in place with Liebsch.

“I can’t comment in any further investigation,” Welch said, in the courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale.

Minutes earlier, each of the other four defendants had pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for their roles in an alleged ticket scheme involving tickets to football and basketball games from 2005 to 2010. They are:

• 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 athletic director in charge of the Williams Educational Fund.

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

Each of the four, and their attorneys, declined to discuss either Wednesday’s proceedings or their plans going forward.

Prosecutors say that tickets were stolen, converted or taken by fraud, then distributed to the defendants for sale to third parties — marketed through individuals and ticket brokers. A separate investigation conducted for Kansas University concluded that more than 19,000 regular-season tickets were involved: more than 17,000 for men’s basketball, and more than 2,000 for football.

Prosecutors allege that the conspirators realized “illegal proceeds” of more than $3 million from the scheme.

“We will proceed toward a plea or jury trial with them, as we did with Liebsch,” Cross said.

Prosecutors also plan to seek forfeiture of up to $5 million from group — excluding Jeffries and Simmons, who are not charged in this latest case.

The Blubaughs, Jones and Kirtland all surrendered their passports Wednesday to authorities, and now remain free on bond. They also signed documents outlining that they would pay $25,000 if they failed to show up for court or otherwise comply with pretrial conditions.

No trial dates have been set.

Interactive Timeline

KU ticket scandal timeline

View timeline on a new page.

Comments

lhs2013 4 years ago

This whole situation is just pathetic. Nuff said.

missmagoo 4 years ago

ya know.. it's awfully nice of her to start cooperating with authorities after KUAC let her keep her job and pretty much cleared her of wrongdoing!

lhs2013 4 years ago

"While four of her former colleagues were entering not guilty pleas in U.S. District Court, Kansas Athletics' former director of ticket operations was taking steps to change her plea and — perhaps — begin cooperating with investigators."

Is she one of the pictured? If so, mind telling us her name since you said the name of the five individuals in the first place.

hail2oldku 4 years ago

Let's use that chesty Lion education and read the entire story before posting -

"Kassie Liebsch, the only individual among the five former KU officials indicted last month not to appear at an arraignment hearing before a magistrate judge in Wichita Wednesday afternoon..."

lhs2013 4 years ago

I had read the whole story, but I just didn't notice that part stating her name.

jeffds01 4 years ago

if my ljworld.com pages are not showing up like normal, and i have recently cleared my internet history, etc, what do i need to do to get the pages back to viewing normal....everything is spread out, and there sections, everything just runs together....

??????

please help.........

wmathews 4 years ago

Hi Jeff, Could you email me a screenshot of what you're seeing at wmathews@ljworld.com? Make sure you include what type of browser and version you're operating (e.g. Firefox).

Thanks!

Whitney Mathews Assistant Community Editor for Online

Richard Payton 4 years ago

No trial date is that common for this type of appearance? When could a trial date be set?

Synjyn Smythe 4 years ago

They just had an arraignment. The next move will be for the matter to be transferred to district court, before an Article III judge. A trial date will be set by that judge at that time.

lhs2013 4 years ago

"On April 16, 2010, Lew Perkins and his attorney filed a police report identifying Perkins as the victim of blackmail. The report didn't surface until May 29."

Interesting.

Take_a_letter_Maria 4 years ago

Since you're a Sophomore, I won't get on your case too hard, but you really need to get yourself up to speed on these things. Something like this would be why the timeline is embedded in the article.

Lana Christie-Hayes 4 years ago

It's all a bunch of B.S.!! White Collar Greed hurts us all just as much as any other kind of crime.. it's sickening!!! I hope they get all that their greedy ...(#&)s deserve!!! We shall see!!... something tells me they're gonna get off easy!

pace 4 years ago

I want to assure the culprits their acts did not affect me in any way. I am not sickened or enraged. I could say I don't really care about it. I have a moment of sympathy for how the Athletic Department abused alumni and fans but that does not seem to be even part of the issue for the athletic department or the University. The University feels the athletic department is simply a business arm of the University and they are embarrassed the AD couldn't do business without indictments. This type of behavior will continue until people decide that sportsmanship should drive student athleticism rather than cash flow and winning. I don't see that happening in my lifetime.

begin60 4 years ago

"Don't you think KU employees look like they are on a work release program?" Someone wrote this on the Free-For-All forum today.

Bob_Keeshan 4 years ago

Seems pretty clear Ms. Liebsch had been unwilling to cooperate so the US Attorney had to figure out a way to be more persuasive.

I bet she wishes she had been more cooperative month ago, as she would like still have a job and not be facing federal charges. Whoever was advising her legally = FAIL.

redmoonrising 4 years ago

My guess is that she, Liebsch, will be getting the deal by agreeing to plead guilty and testify against the others. They have to get one to give to get the others. Betting her slap will be a lot lighter than the others and maybe rightfully so, I haven't a clue there. Maybe I've just been watching too much Law & Order.

friendlyjhawk 4 years ago

Here's a shout out to all the honest KU employees. Must be hard times with all this graft around you.

rivercitymom 4 years ago

Thanks! This IS incredibly demoralizing for many people who work at KU.

As an aside, good job Kassie! PLEASE take Lou down! This is an opportunity to send a strong message that mob tactics will not be tolerated in college athletics.

TopJayhawk 4 years ago

Good job Kassie? Get real. She needs to fry like the rest of them. Burn baby burn.

bluerose 4 years ago

skunks. they'll probably all get away with it. and get to keep the money.

somedude20 4 years ago

Charlette Blubaugh looks like Kath Geiss from 30Rock or that dreadful singer Susan Boyle.

blindrabbit 4 years ago

From the recent photos, it looks like some of the abducted funds have been spent on healthy diets. Rodney and the Blubaughs will be able to work off some of that at their future jobs .

nowthetruth 4 years ago

blindrabbit hit it! not only are they thieves, they are FAT THIEVES

TopJayhawk 4 years ago

Hopefully the new A.D. will have the good sense to hire only KU folks.
Lew hiring OU people who are known to cheat is pathetic. I really hope Lew fries too.

TopJayhawk 4 years ago

I wanna see a picture of MR. Bluebaugh. I would like to see who the hog is married to.

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