Former KU Student Employee Sentenced to 37 Months
For Conspiring to Steal Sports Tickets
WICHITA, KAN. – Kassie Liebsch, 28, Lawrence, Kan., has been sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for conspiring to steal tickets to sporting events at the University of Kansas, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today. The judge also sentenced her to pay more than $1.2 million in restitution to the University of Kansas and $79,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. She also forfeited a 2008 Toyota Camry.
Liebsch pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. In her plea, she admitted she personally received about $100,000 from the sale of approximately $2 million worth of tickets diverted by her and other employees of Kansas Athletics, Inc.
Liebsch, who started as a freshman at KU in the fall of 2001, was hired as a student worker at the Kansas Athletics Ticket Office. She answered phones, helped customers, processed mail and took orders for tickets to athletic events. When she graduated in 2005, co-defendant and Associate Athletic Director Charlette Fay Blubaugh hired her as a systems analyst at a salary of $30,000 a year. In the course of her duties, Liebsch worked with co-defendants Rodney Jones and Ben Kirtland, both of whom were employed by the Williams Educational Fund, the fund-raising arm of KU Athletics.
Upon becoming a systems analyst in 2005, Liebsch received requests for tickets to athletic events from Jones and Kirtland. At first, she sought Blubaugh’s approval before providing the tickets. Then Blubaugh told Liebsch she had set aside a group of tickets for the Williams Educational Fund and Liebsch no longer needed to ask permission. Blubaugh told Liebsch “never tell Rodney and Ben no” when they asked for tickets. Sometime in 2005, Jones began giving Liebsch cash. He showed her how to convert the cash to money orders in amounts low enough to avoid currency reporting requirements. Rather than alerting athletic officials to the scheme, Jones joined the conspiracy. She continued to provide tickets to Jones, Kirtland and others, knowing that some or all of the tickets would be sold to third parties in violation of university policy. She continued accepting money from Jones that she knew came from the proceeds of tickets being sold in violation of university policy. She took part in phone conversations with Charlotte Blubaugh and Kirtland in which Kirtland said he had received money from Jones and Blubaugh talked about making changes to the ticket computer system before responding to a law enforcement request for information on ticket assignments. Liebsch used some of the cash she got from Jones to make payments on a 2008 Toyota Camry.
In addition to diverting tickets, the conspirators misled the Director of Athletics to believe that a computer system was in place to prevent tickets from being stolen, converted or taken by fraud. They paid kickbacks to individuals who marketed the stolen tickets and they used various means to cover up their crimes including using third parties not connected with the ticket office to sell the tickets, having checks written to third parties, and concealing the illicit income from the NCAA.
Charlotte Blubaugh, 44, Medford, Okla., who is set for sentencing April 14 after pleading guilty to conspiracy.
Thomas Ray Blubaugh, 47, Medford, Okla., who is set for sentencing April 14 after pleading guilty to conspiracy.
Ben Kirtland, 54, Lenexa, Kan., who is set for sentencing May 12 after pleading guilty to conspiracy.
Rodney Dale Jones, 42, Lawrence, Kan., who is set for sentencing March 31 after pleading guilty to conspiracy.
Brandon Simmons, 31, Lenexa, Kan., who pleaded guilty to a charge of concealing a felony and was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay restitution of $157,840.
Jason Jeffries, 36, Lawrence, Kan., who pleaded guilty to a charge of concealing a felony and was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay restitution of $56,000.
Grissom commended the Internal Revenue Service, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hathaway and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Kenney for their work on the case.