College Football Ticket Scammer Must Repay Victims and Serve Time
BIRMINGHAM – A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a St. Clair man to eight months in custody and ordered him to repay more than $15,000 to victims of his college football ticket scam, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and U.S. Postal Inspector R. Frank Dyer.
U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon sentenced CHRISTOPHER RYAN BURNS, 29, of Moody, on one count of mail fraud in connection with Burns' scheme in which he sold college football tickets on the Web site, Craigslist, to people in at least 20 states, but did not provide the tickets. Burns pleaded guilty to the charge in June.
Burns must serve two months in prison, followed by six months in home detention, then three years of supervised release. Kallon ordered him to pay $15,373 in restitution to the 41 victims who paid Burns for tickets they never received.
"Stealing from 41 different identified victims is outrageous and merits a term of imprisonment," the government said in its sentencing memorandum.
"This defendant preyed on the passion of college football fans to steal their money," Vance said. "I am grateful for the tenacious investigation by postal inspectors who brought him to justice," Vance said.
According to Burns' plea agreement with the government, he carried out his scheme as follows:
Between December 2010 and September 2011, Burns posted 63 entries on Craigslist advertising tickets for various college football games across the country, including the 2011 Auburn vs. LSU, LSU vs. Oregon, Wisconsin vs. Nebraska, LSU vs. Alabama and Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma games. In the ads, Burns claimed to be a fan or a graduate of the various colleges who wouldn't be able to attend the game, but offered to provide photos of the tickets to prospective buyers.
In some instances, buyers who paid several hundred dollars for tickets were sent packages containing only blank sheets of paper. One individual in Wisconsin, who mailed Burns a $300 money order for tickets to the Wisconsin vs. Nebraska game, received only a package containing "Let's Keep the Mail Safe" brochures in return.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the Birmingham Police Department, investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Fortune prosecuted the case.
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The Office of U.S. Attorney
Joyce White Vance
Natural Disaster Fraud Hotline
Members of the public can report fraud, waste, abuse or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations through the Hotline, toll free, at (866) 720-5721 or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please see the News Release Justice Department Officials Raise Awareness of Disaster Fraud Hotline