Wichita Jason Jeffries already told KU investigators that he’d manipulated the ticket-distribution system at Kansas Athletics Inc. to set aside as many as 56 tickets per year for his own benefit, all while allowing the transactions to be disguised from basketball season-ticket holders as the tickets were in turn sold to an out-of-state broker.
Now Jeffries has pledged, in writing, to help federal prosecutors build a federal case against others said to be involved in the theft and sale of Kansas University football and basketball tickets for personal gain — a scheme KU says involved at least 19,000 tickets and cost Kansas Athletics anywhere from $1 million to $3 million, likely more.
“Mr. Jeffries certainly has always accepted his responsibility and continues to do so,” attorney Tom Haney said Wednesday, after his client pleaded guilty to a federal charge of failing to report the criminal activity to authorities. “He has nothing to hide.”
Jeffries, who resigned under pressure earlier this year as assistant director of ticket operations, admitted to committing misprision, a felony punishable by up to three years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a year of supervised release.
“I may order you to make restitution, in addition to any other penalty,” U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown told Jeffries, during a 55-minute-long hearing in U.S. District Court in Wichita.
“Yes, your honor,” Jeffries responded.
Sentencing is set for 10:30 a.m. Sept. 29. Haney says that his client should receive probation.
In his plea agreement, Jeffries has agreed to cooperate with authorities, whether that’s providing information to investigators, appearing before a grand jury or testifying in trials of others who may have been involved in criminal activity. Such cooperation has not yet been satisfied, Haney told the judge, reading from the plea agreement.
After the hearing, Haney declined to discuss his client’s future involvement, other that to say he’d be ready.
“I don’t know who else are going to be targets. We’re fairly low on the pay scale,” Haney said of Jeffries. “ Our knowledge is limited, but whatever we know, we’ll disclose. Where that leads, that’s the government’s job.”
Jeffries is one of five now-former Kansas Athletics employees who, along with a paid consultant, were singled out in KU’s internal investigation into irregularities involving tickets and the Williams Educational Fund, which is the department’s donor organization.
One of the former employees, Brandon Simmons, is scheduled to plead guilty Thursday to the same misprision charge, also before Brown at federal court in Wichita. Simmons had been assistant athletics director for sales and marketing since December, and previously had worked in the ticket office since 2005.
Both Jeffries and Simmons resigned in April from Kansas Athletics, nearly a month after KU launched its internal investigation. Athletics Director Lew Perkins later said that he learned of the ticket problems in December from federal prosecutors, who requested that he not discuss the probe with anyone.
Perkins later asked Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little to order the internal investigation, to be independent from but financed by Kansas Athletics.
The internal investigation covered regular-season tickets taken from 2005 to 2010, did not address postseason tickets for football and basketball.
Perkins and Gray-Little released results from the internal investigation May 26, and two weeks later Perkins announced that he would be retiring in September 2011.