Two former University of Kansas athletics officials admitted last week their roles in scamming the school out of $2 million worth of football and basketball tickets over a six-year period.
Kassie Liebsch, who joined the KU ticket office as a 22-year-old student in 2002 and left as director of ticket operations last fall, pleaded guilty on Thursday to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. On Friday, former assistant athletic director Rodney Jones changed his plea from not guilty and admitted his part in the conspiracy that began in 2005.
In all, five former co-workers were indicted Nov. 18. Prosecutors alleged that the defendants stole the tickets from a pool meant for donors, then sold them to individuals or ticket brokers, earning $5 million in the process. According to an Associated Press report, the scheme unraveled last year after the Internal Revenue Service noticed an inordinate amount of season tickets being sold by one broker whose checks for about $975,000 were cashed by Jones' friend at the broker's bank.
Jones, 42, had been in charge of the university's Williams Educational Fund, which uses athletic ticket sales to fund academic and athletic scholarships. Charlette Blubaugh, Liebsch's predecessor in the ticket office, had created the ticket pool for donors. According to The Kansas City Star, Jones in 2005 began giving Liebsch cash and showed her how to purchase money orders in amounts small enough to avoid federal detection.
Liebsch and Jones face 20-year prison sentences, though much shorter terms are expected. Sentencing has been scheduled for March 30, though that could be delayed depending on how cases against the other co-defendants proceed.
According to the Star, the controversy contributed in part to fan and donor dissatisfaction with then athletic director Lew Perkins, who retired in September, a year earlier than expected.