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

March 30, 2011, 10:59 a.m. Updated March 30, 2011, 1:02 p.m.

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Kassie Liebsch

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

truthku 3 years ago

Why not sentence KU POLICE CHIEF Oliver and his top 3 ADMIN POLICE officer's positions for lyin BOUT THERE LIES ABOUT fired!!!!!!!!! 20 year VETEARN EMPLOYEES AS THEY ARE HAVING ADULTEROUS SEX WHILE ON DUTY WITH FORMER FIRED OFFICERS GF'S WHILE ON DUTY WITH OUR HARD EARNED KS TAXPAYERS MONEY WHICH PROVIDES THEIR Py checks.....i cant have sex on duty when im workin for 7 bucks an hour!

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Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years ago

I'll try this again.. Justice is served... on a tray in the federal penn!.. Bet the food doesn't taste nearly as good as the steak and lobster they were feeding on for 5 years... oh and that limo ride has been replaced by a cop cruiser!! Pull up a mat on a slab slicksters. Enjoy your stay in the big gray house with bars on the windows while you think about your million dollar mansions and luxurious hotel rooms!

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matahari 3 years ago

Someone should wonder how much KU reaps the rakes from admission fees on up! It certainly doesn't go into the professors' pockets, my guess would be the athletics dpt's. So she is the sacrificial lamb, wootie toot toot..she is nothing but the pickle at the bottom of the barrel, unless you count the stand by gate ticket scalpers

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Reta Cosby 3 years ago

There's always something going on under the table when you live a rich and lavish lifestyle. the American economic system is set up that way. It started with the forefathers constructing a constitution that neglected life. liberty and the pursuit of hapiness for some so that others could profit from their labor, and it's been downhill from there. Why not a "DO NO HARM" CONSTITUTION that would protect everyone. That would turn the justice system around.

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Kontum1972 3 years ago

hey don't worry about Cassie...she will meet some really sweet gals in the pen who will take care of her....she will be one of the newbies....fresh..she wont be lonely....LoL!

The same will go for pretty boy spiked hairdo.....

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4everahawk 3 years ago

If you go back and look at the exhibits, Sean Lester (supervised the business office) and Susan Wachter (chief financial officer) signed off on the invoices to pay Blubaugh. One would surely think that Lew knew who and why people were getting paid for whatever service they were providing to athletics. He was negligent and incompetent as a director regardless of how much praise he gets for contributions made during his tenure.

As for the crooks.....all of them were pompous, arrogant individuals whose daily demeanor was that of self entitlement (wonder where they learned that??). Kassie was one of Rodney's groupies from the outset and hung with the 'in crowd' and looked down her nose at all the staff who she thought were beneath her......wonder if she is now thinking perhaps she was hanging with the wrong crowd?

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Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years ago

I guess posting your links with my comments attached on FB will have to do, because LJW won't allow me to express my opinions on this forum!!!

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edjayhawk 3 years ago

I'm tired of seeing her mugshot. Hope this is the last time.

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Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years ago

Why do they always delete my posts? LJW...the censors of Lawrence... come on! Why? Because I strongly express my feelings against white collar crime and Lawrence's politics??? Geez!

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somedude20 3 years ago

I can only say that for those who find her cute that you should go see the eye doc (use the front door not the car side entrance) and have your eyes checked. She reminds me of Slimer but trading in a mouth full of hot dogs for a blond wig. And that smile. Never trust a person who has to force a smile

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scarletbhound 3 years ago

Imbnoz: My condolence for your tragic loss. I spent part of my journalism career as a police reporter. That meant I covered numerous DUI-connected "accidents." It infuriated how these jerks continually got off with scarcely a slap on the wrist, even though their irresponsibility led to innocent deaths. The court system in Kansas and elsewhere seems to have more compassion for the poor misunderstood "impaired" drunk that the victims when it comes to DUIs. I hope you have filed a high-dollar civil lawsuit against the killer of your loved one. While that won't replace your loss, a good attorney could make sure that the culprit at least pays financially for the rest of his life.

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opobserver 3 years ago

In the Star it says Jones wants probation to "be a Dad" What a JOKE! Where were his kids when he was living it up on the Country Club Plaza? He is just a poor boy from Kirksville, MO who thought he deserved a certain lifestyle, without accomplishing that the legal way.

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jstthefacts 3 years ago

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

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bootlegger 3 years ago

I'm certain her mother and father are proud of this KU graduate...............

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Shardwurm 3 years ago

Next they need to put the entire university staff on trial for fraud, starting with the chancellor.

What else can you possibly call selling a degree in Sociology for $50,000+?

Pretty much a clear case of theft if I've ever seen one. They really should be required to give disclosure statements to ensure students and parents are aware that they are paying too much for a degree that will never pay for itself. Why isn't the Education Industry subject to full disclosure laws when selling their product?

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newmedia 3 years ago

Should make a nice case study on ethics to be used by the KU School of Business.

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Maracas 3 years ago

A thief by any other name is still a thief. They get what they deserve.

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Chris Ogle 3 years ago

Where was "big Lew" when this was going on????

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geoismeo 3 years ago

She looks so young and blonde and innocent. I say let her go.

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thesloss 3 years ago

Lew and all of these characters stole more than tickets and money ... they stole experiences, memories, family traditions from those who have been part of the Jayhawk family for generations. A large part of what was stolen was priceless ... irreplaceable.

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friendlyjhawk 3 years ago

Whether she was a student or not is not important. Is wrongdoing lessened because she was young? It is not an excuse. Send her away and do it quickly so the court can get on with sentencing the rest of the bums. If it was my daughter I would be so ashamed of her but I would not let a lawyer make that lame excuse that she was young and naive. She was young AND a greedy crook.

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crimsonwithblue22 3 years ago

Here's what I still have a real problem with and there has still never been a real question asked and certainly not a real answer given:

How does Tom Blubaugh get paid by the athletic department $116,500 for consulting work and no one ( to my knowledge ) has really pressed the issue of what his expertise or advise was OR how an athletic director who ruled with an iron fist wouldn't be aware that he was on the payroll? Who was our payroll manager/accountant? Were we so loose with donor money that we don't miss $116,500? We sure seemed to nickel and dime ( that's $5 thousand and $10 thousand ) our alums to death in the name of moving up a few rows in the fieldhouse and we CERTAINLY kept tight tabs on those precious priority points!

"Blubaugh, a former ticket operations director at the University of Oklahoma, came to Lawrence after his wife secured a similar job at KU in 2004. By at least the fall of that year, according to university records, Blubaugh was performing occasional consulting work for the school. The university eventually paid him $116,500 even though senior athletic department officials did not know he was on the payroll. They learned of his employment May 13, long after federal and university investigations of the ticket scandal had started." KC Star

"Blubuagh's husband, Thomas Ray Blubaugh, 46, was on the payroll of the ticket office as a consultant from August 2007 through January 2010" Topeka Capital Journal

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BruceWayne 3 years ago

My question would be, if David Freeman had not snitched everyone out how long would this have gone on? Also...many folks waiting for Lew to be charged, I am not sure they would be sentencing these folks if more charges were pending. I could be wrong.

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Laura House Blanchard 3 years ago

37 months in federal prison for that…. Our judicial system is so screwed up. My brother is killed by a 19 year old that is not only 3 times the legal limit on alcohol, he was also high. He will probably only get a max of 36 months. This will be his 2nd DUI and the accident was his fault. I don’t agree with what she did or that she didn’t know what was going on, but really 37 months?

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Kontum1972 3 years ago

“I loved KU, and I loved KU basketball and I really loved my job.”----Cassie Huh....yeah it really sounds like it,,,,,,,"good thing u didnt hate it."...Lord knows what you would of done...

look up love in the dictionary....bet your parents are really proud of u

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KEITHMILES05 3 years ago

I kinda feel sorry for this young lady being so damn naive.

Jones, Kirtland, and the other two hopefully will see long prison sentences. They were the damn schemers and deserve everything given to them.

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bootlegger 3 years ago

Have a nice trip............

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Esq2eB 3 years ago

Y'know, minimum-security prison is no picnic. I have a client in there right now. He says the trick is: kick someone's a$$ the first day, or become someone's b*tch. Then everything will be all right. W-Why do you ask, anyway?

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justanotherface 3 years ago

And she states, "I really loved my job." Yeah, with under the table bonuses worth almost 230K, I bet she did love that job.

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justtired 3 years ago

Inmates earn a wage while in prison..I think at the state level it is .60 per day..not sure about federal.

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OldEnuf2BYurDad 3 years ago

I'm not absolving her, but I do think Kassie is a little different from the others. She started working as a student worker. Her entire professional experience was at KU Athletics. When she discovered that tickets were being sold like that, she was told it was a job perk, and she believed them.

At some point, she obviously figured out that it was NOT a perk, but illegal. At that point it would have taken some courage to blow the whistle. She was a frog slowly being boiled in a pot of ethics. She was slowly brought into the culture of theft.

Only a person of strong personal integrity would have resisted that. I think plenty of us would have caved to the peer pressure and temptation if we had been in her shoes.

That being said: I'm glad she's going to jail. I wish all of them were doing time.

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fan4kufootball 3 years ago

Really - how do they expect her to pay back 1.3 Million to KU Athletics? First she is going to spend 3 years in prision - no earnings there and it will be hard for her to find a decent paying job when she is out of prison. So - unless she has assets somewhere.... KU Athletics should not count on getting any of that money.

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Bob Forer 3 years ago

Bad news for the other players still left unsentenced in the scheme. I bet their butts are puckering right now.

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Missingit 3 years ago

I want to know where the money went. KU will never see what was lost. The IRS will get theirs first and KU will get nada. Was justice really served? Liebsch gave back a Camry. Whop dee doo

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consumer1 3 years ago

IF she got three years, the sentencing should go up incrementally with each offender. By the time they get to Charlette Blubaugh, she should be facing 15 to 20 years for her part. But,,, I bet she won't get that much, my guess is she will get maybe six years. Liebsch should have kept her mouth shut and she probably would have come out better.

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Pywacket 3 years ago

Wonder if the brief flirtation with a lavish lifestyle was worth it. Prison is bad enough, but the worst of it is that you can never regain integrity and a sense of honor after being a thief and a cheat. Who will ever respect any of these people again? Assuming their families are decent people, they must be heartsick. If any of these people were a sister, brother, child, or parent of mine, I would be devastated.

Even if they hadn't been caught, they had already lost these precious intangibles--honor, integrity, decency. Did any of them lament this inside, and struggle with guilt, or were they perfectly happy until they got caught? I hope they now realize that no amount of money is worth flushing your honor down the toilet, which is exactly what they did.

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justanotherface 3 years ago

Wonder where she will be spending the time and did they take her into custody today?

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ilovelucy 3 years ago

Yay! Let's hope the party boy gets sentenced in the same manner.

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