Archive for Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ben Kirtland pleads guilty in federal court to role in KU ticket scam

February 24, 2011, 10:44 a.m. Updated February 24, 2011, 6:40 p.m.


Ben Kirtland knew the law was coming and quickly amended three previous years of tax returns to reflect his own increased income from handling Kansas University football and basketball tickets.

But even in making such financial adjustments for the 2006-08 tax years, Kirtland — then the lead fundraiser for Kansas Athletics Inc. — didn’t go far enough.

“When he filed those (amended) returns, he claimed he’d ‘inadvertently’ failed to disclose income from those years,” said Richard Hathaway, assistant U.S. attorney, who detailed Kirtland’s underreporting during a hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Wichita. “In checks only, he underreported $39,000.”

The inaccurate tax returns — Hathaway said that the initial returns left out at least $120,000 to $216,000 — formed the basis for Kirtland pleading guilty Thursday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The charge stemmed from a scam that a KU investigation determined had involved several employees conspiring to steal and profit from the sale of about 19,000 tickets for regular-season football and basketball games from 2005 to 2010.

Like four co-conspirators who pleaded guilty before him, Kirtland faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a monetary judgment that would require him to share responsibility for forfeiting up to $2 million in ill-gotten gains.

“Ben has today publicly admitted his guilt and deeply regrets his unlawful acts, as well as the embarrassment his actions have brought to his family and to the University of Kansas,” said Robin Fowler, Kirtland’s attorney, after the 29-minute hearing. “He wishes to apologize to everyone he has let down by his conduct.”

U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown, who accepted Kirtland’s plea, set sentencing for 10 a.m. May 12 in Wichita.

Final defendant

He becomes the fifth and final former Kansas Athletics employee or consultant to plead guilty after being charged in federal court with conspiracy. The others, all awaiting sentencing:

  • Charlette Blubaugh, former head of the athletics ticket office.
  • Tom Blubaugh, her husband and a former consultant.
  • Kassie Liebsch, a former systems analyst who had taken over for Charlette Blubaugh running the tickets office.
  • Rodney Jones, former assistant athletic director in charge of Williams Fund.

Two other former co-workers — Jason Jeffries and Brandon Simmons — earlier pleaded guilty to failing to notify authorities about the scam.

After Thursday’s hearing, Hathaway declined to discuss whether the federal investigation would continue.


Kirtland is the highest-ranking former employee to be charged in the scam. He worked at Kansas Athletics as associate athletics director for development, making him the top fundraiser for the department.

In court documents, Kirtland estimated the total value of tickets he’d sold as “in excess of $120,000,” and that he’d shared proceeds with a codefendant.

“I knew that neither I, nor the person with whom I shared the proceeds, was legally authorized to sell these tickets; and by selling these tickets and keeping and sharing the proceeds I acknowledge that I was conspiring to commit, and committing, a fraud upon the University of Kansas, and Kansas Athletics Inc.,” Kirtland said, in his written guilty plea. “… I was aware that there was a lucrative market for KU tickets, and that these tickets were often sold by ticket brokers who advertised and sold tickets online.”

Kirtland also admitted receiving payments in cash and by check, and then converting checks into money orders to avoid detection. He failed to report his extra income on either his tax returns or NCAA-required documents outlining “outside income.”

Unlike his fellow co-conspirators, Kirtland did not enter a plea agreement with prosecutors. Others had agreed to cooperate with investigators, disclose all sources of income and submit to polygraph testing, if necessary, as part of ongoing investigations, if any.

As it stands now, authorities aren’t sure exactly how much money Kirtland left off of his amended tax returns, or how much he received as part of the scam.

“We’re still checking,” Hathaway said, after the hearing. “We’re still looking into that stuff.”


Authorities have said that two victims in the case will expected to be eligible for receiving money through forfeiture or possible restitution: IRS and Kansas Athletics.

Jim Marchiony, an associate athletics director, reiterated that decisions about whether to pursue any payments from such funds would not come until the legal process had run its course.

“The process is not over until all the sentences have been handed down,” he said Thursday.

The department is still awaiting word on a $250,000 insurance claim filed in October on a policy taken out to protect against losses suffered as a result of employee theft.

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Andini 7 years, 3 months ago

Lew Perkin$ is to blame. (I'm joking. I just had to say it before someone else does)

slowplay 7 years, 3 months ago

Well, he's not blameless either. It did happen under his watch.

ralphralph 7 years, 3 months ago

Spank me and call me "Glenn Beck", but I'm still waiting to see this get followed up to a higher level ...

Kontum1972 7 years, 3 months ago


where is the rest of the money...?

and how is it being paid back....from the prison work shoppe where they will be working from for the next billion years?

Ricky54 7 years, 3 months ago

I wonder if faithful ticket holders, who have been sitting 20 rows further back for the last 7 years, should be entitled to a few more points????Just wondering Lew...

number1jayhawker 7 years, 3 months ago

Yea I donated more money and received more points each year and still kept getting pushed out to worse seats.

Hopefully this will also end the fans of the opposing teams from getting seats in the KU season ticket holder section.

onceajhawkalwaysajhawk 7 years, 3 months ago

So Where does Roger Morningstar fit into this investigation/crime?

slowplay 7 years, 3 months ago

Nowhere. Why would you even bring up his name?

onceajhawkalwaysajhawk 7 years, 3 months ago

Didn't Freeman testify that he and Moringstar profited from this scheme?

cop62 7 years, 3 months ago

Morningstar: wait for it....until after the bb season.

Robert Rauktis 7 years, 3 months ago

Why is Marchiony still employed there? Someone should step on that toad.

KEITHMILES05 7 years, 3 months ago

I thought it odd Morningstar's name hadn't surfaced in this investigation. However, it appears he is clean at least for the time being.

BruceWayne 7 years, 3 months ago

as much as I hate Perkins, I do not think any charges will be coming. Same for Morningstar. I wonder if they all knew it was coming as soon as Freeman (the snitch) was charged?

Richard Payton 7 years, 3 months ago

March Madness in the courtroom and basketball court.

sr80 7 years, 3 months ago

I hope that Judge Brown teaches these criminals a lesson not soon too be forgotten by the other scum who didn't get charged. i know there are plenty of stinkin rats up at KU that got a deal !!!

sr80 7 years, 3 months ago

what happened do the KU nazi's/elites have control of the LJW blogs ? i knew they were powerful, but this takes the cake !!!!!

opobserver 7 years, 3 months ago

I hope the judge doesn't take it easy on these scammers. They need to get the 20 yrs. so when they get out they will be too old to enjoy the money they have stashed away. Jones struts around like he owns the town of Lawrence. $ can buy all the women and booze one needs. He hasn't worked for almost a year now, you can bet he has time to hide plenty of cash. And what about this "friend" of Jones. Remember, the guy who left the ticket stubs in the trash? Why didn't we learn more about this? When the story comes out, I bet Jones is the mastermind behind it. Heard from a friend he wasn't a very honest employee when he worked in a local business.

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