WICHITA, Kan. -- A former University of Kansas athletics official admitted in court Wednesday that he knew about a scheme in which school employees sold some $1 million worth of tickets to sporting events and pocketed the proceeds, but did not alert the authorities.
Jason Jeffries, the school's former assistant director of ticket operations, pleaded guilty U.S. District Court in Wichita to one count of misprision of a felony. He remains free on his own recognizance.
He could receive up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine at his Sept. 29 sentencing, but he'll likely get far less, if any, prison time. The government agreed as part of the plea deal to recommend a sentence within federal sentencing guidelines, although U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown is not bound by that recommendation.
Jeffries, 35, spoke quietly as he answered Brown's questions, and his voice cracked when he entered his guilty plea.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Lind told the court that if the matter went to trial, the government would show that the university had a way to track available tickets, but that Jeffries would withhold sale of certain tickets to the general public, then change their status to reserved sales.
"He did that to disguise the nature of the transaction," Lind said.
Jeffries agreed as part of the plea deal to cooperate fully in the federal probe into the ticket scam and to testify in any grand jury or other court proceeding. He also agreed to disclose to the government all assets for forfeiture and not to contest any forfeiture proceedings.
Jeffries referred all questions to his attorney.
"Mr. Jeffries has always accepted his responsibility," his defense attorney, Tom Haney, said after the hearing. "He has nothing to hide."
Haney declined to discuss the investigation, saying prosecutors have asked them not to talk about it.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to file charges against Jeffries' wife or seek further charges against him. Haney said afterward that Jeffries' wife, whom he declined to name, had no involvement with the ticket scandal and that he was just accepting the offer by the government in that regard.
Brandon Simmons, the university's former assistant athletic director for sales and marketing, is to appear in court Thursday on the same charge.
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 that five Kansas athletics employees and a consultant -- none of whom are still 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.