WICHITA, Kan. — A key official at the University of Kansas during a $2 million ticket scalping conspiracy claimed in a court document filed Friday that the school did not actually lose any money “in spite of the pilferage” because those tickets would not have been sold anyway.
Charlette Blubaugh, the former associate athletic director in charge of the ticket office, made the claims in a court document seeking no more than a 57-month prison term — at the low end of the advisory sentencing guideline — when she is sentenced on Thursday.
Her defense attorney, John Rapp, wrote that there is no question that his client stole tickets from Kansas Athletics Inc., the nonprofit which promotes Kansas athletics, but he argued that often those were so-called hold tickets used to correct last-minute seating problems that would not have been sold. The filing also claimed it “appeared likely” that no one was denied a ticket by her illegal conduct.
Blubaugh, 44, of Medford, Okla., told U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown in her filing that the Williams Education Fund, the university’s fundraising arm, actually increased its donations during her time there because the staff used numerous hold tickets correctly to obtain increased donations.
“The priority points ticket system Ms. Blubaugh helped establish at KAI worked in spite of this conspiracy,” according to the defense filing. “Revenue increased in spite of the pilferage.”
Blubaugh contended that shortly after being hired, she realized many of the tickets in the donor discretionary account were being misused by ticket office employees.
“When Ms. Blubaugh raised concerns, she was told to keep quiet and to keep these individuals happy by giving them the tickets they demanded,” according to the court filing. “In 2006, after keeping this secret and noting that no concern was being raised by outside auditors, she too decided to illegally take tickets and sell them for personal gain.”
It was former assistant athletics director Rodney Jones who started the pilferage of the tickets, according to the court filing.
Blubaugh also asked the judge to stay her sentence until after her husband, Thomas Blubaugh, a consultant for the ticket office and a co-conspirator in the scheme, finishes his own prison term in order to allow one of them to care for their young children.
The couple have two children, ages 5 and 6. She also has two other children, 11-year-old twins, from a previous marriage who live with her ex-husband.
Charlette Blubaugh pleaded guilty in January to a single count of conspiracy to defraud the United States through wire fraud, tax obstruction and interstate transportation of stolen property.
Seven people have been snared in the investigation into the unlawful sale of football and basketball season tickets by key athletics department officials to ticket brokers and others in which the employees pocketed the money. All pleaded guilty.
Last month, Brown gave probation to two university officials who cooperated early with an internal investigation and with federal prosecutors. Brandon Simmons, the school’s former athletic director of sales and marketing, and Jason Jeffries, the former assistant director of ticket operations, were charged with failing to tell authorities about the scheme.
“Both of these men were part of the criminal enterprise described in the Indictment,” Blubaugh’s attorney argued. “They simply won the race to the courthouse and, as such, were able to negotiate a plea to a lesser crime.”
The Blubaughs and three others were charged with conspiracy, a more serious crime carrying stiffer potential sentences.
Kassie Liebsch, the former systems analyst at the ticket office, was sentenced to 37 months in prison. Jones received a 46-month prison sentence.
Former associate athletic director of development Ben Kirtland is set for sentencing in May.