Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Ex-Kansas officials charged in scandal
WICHITA, Kan. -- Two former University of Kansas athletics officials tied to a $1 million ticket scalping scandal at the school have been charged as part of a federal probe into the scheme, according to court documents made public Wednesday.
Brandon Simmons, the university's former assistant athletic director for sales and marketing, was charged with one count of misprision of a felony. Prosecutors allege he knew tickets were stolen from the university, concealed that fact and did not report it to authorities, according to a criminal information document filed in federal court in Topeka.
Jason Jeffries, the assistant director of ticket operations, was charged last week with the same felony, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Jeffries' charges also were cited in a criminal information document, which is typically filed with the consent of the defendant and is commonly the first step toward entering a guilty plea. Both men are scheduled to appear in court next week.
Simmons, Jeffries and four other former university employees have been accused in an internal investigation of an alleged scheme to sell at least $1 million in basketball and football tickets to brokers. The university determined that thousands of tickets were used or sold by several school staffers for personal purposes.
Simmons' attorney, Mark Bennett Jr., said his client hasn't decided whether to plead guilty. He said Simmons cooperated with the university investigation, but it has "yet to be determined" whether he will cooperate with federal prosecutors.
Jeffries cooperated with investigations from the beginning because "he has nothing to hide," said his attorney, Tom Haney. Jeffries is considering pleading guilty to the charge and is not accused of profiting from the alleged scheme, Haney said.
School officials are confident that any criminal charges will be handled appropriately, said University of Kansas associate athletics director Jim Marchiony.
"The U.S. attorney is conducting a thorough investigation," he said. "We continue to cooperate with that investigation."
Simmons resigned from the university in April, and his attorney said he expects that more people will be charged.
Jim Cross, the spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, declined comment.
Details of the scam surfaced in May, when school officials disclosed that a report by a Wichita law firm was sent to federal investigators already looking into allegations of wrongdoing in the athletics department and the school's athletics fundraising arm, the Williams Educational Fund.
The law firm's investigation found five Kansas athletics staffers and a consultant -- all of them no longer employed by the school -- sold or used at least 17,609 men's basketball tickets, 2,181 football tickets and a number of parking passes and other passes for personal purposes.
The report showed over $887,000 in basketball tickets and more than $122,000 worth of football tickets were involved.
Investigators were unable to determine what portion of the $1 million in tickets were sold directly to ticket brokers. Distribution of the tickets were disguised by department employees as complimentary and inventory tickets, or other categories with limited accountability.
Jeffries's first court appearance is scheduled for July 14 in Wichita. The proceeding will allow him only to enter a not guilty plea, but a change-of-plea hearing is set to immediately follow before U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown.
Similar court appearances for Simmons are set for July 15 in Wichita.