Ex-school official admits role in ticket scam

A former University of Kansas athletics official pleaded guilty

Friday for his role in a $2 million ticket-scalping scheme,

shedding light on how authorities uncovered a scam that brought

down seven former university employees.

Rodney Jones, the school’s former assistant athletic

director, admitted his part in a conspiracy that began in 2005. 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.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hathaway revealed at

Friday’s hearing that investigators did a “trash

pull” at the friend’s house and discovered all but one

of an undisclosed number of ticket stubs were in consecutive order.

The unidentified friend told agents who confronted him that he

believed the basketball and football tickets had been lawfully

obtained by Jones.

Hathaway also told the judge that Jones converted cash from the

ticket sales into money orders in amounts of between $400 and $500

to avoid currency reporting requirements. The government contends

Jones got the tickets from three other athletics department


Jones, 42, of Lawrence, was in charge of the Williams

Educational Fund, the university’s fundraising arm that uses

the sale of tickets to contribute to scholastic and athletic

scholarships for students. Hathaway said Jones has cooperated since

being confronted by investigators.

His defense attorney, Gerald Handley, gave reporters a written

statement before Friday’s court hearing that said Jones

accepted responsibility for his role.

“He deeply regrets his involvement in this episode. He

apologizes to the university for his conduct,” the statement

read. “He has agreed to and is cooperating with the

authorities to resolve the issues that are referred to in the


Jones pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy for illegal

acts such as wire fraud, interstate transportation of stolen goods

and obstruction in the collection of income taxes. He could face up

to 20 years in prison when sentenced March 31, but will likely

receive less under federal sentencing guidelines.

Prosecutors have agreed to recommend a lighter sentence if Jones

provides substantial assistance to investigators. U.S. District

Judge Wesley Brown is not bound by that recommendation.

As part of the plea deal, Jones agreed not to contest a $2

million judgment against him, an amount that is to be paid jointly

by all the defendants.

Brandon Simmons, the school’s former assistant athletic

director for sales, and Jason Jeffries, the former assistant

director of ticket operations, pleaded guilty in July to knowing

about the ticket scam and failing to report it to authorities. They

will be sentenced March 7.

Jones and four other former employees were indicted on a single

conspiracy count in November. Former systems analyst Kassie Liebsch

pleaded guilty to conspiracy this week.

The remaining three defendants — former associate athletic

director Charlette Blubaugh; her husband, Thomas, a consultant for

the ticket office; and former associate athletic director Ben

Kirtland — are set for trial in February, although that date

is likely to be postponed.

Hathaway said Jones split the proceeds from the ticket sales

with Kirtland and Liebsch.

Investigators from the IRS and FBI discovered that university

policy prohibits the resale of the two complimentary tickets

employees receive, which are reported as taxable income for its

employees. Agents also found Jones did not report the outside

income as required by NCAA rules.