Texas family pleads guilty to fraud charges over 'elaborate' Masters ticket scam

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports
A few more Masters tickets might be available for the public next year. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
A few more Masters tickets might be available for the public next year. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Masters tickets, already the most sought-after tickets in golf, proved to be especially costly for one Texas family.

Four members of a family in Texas pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges after admitting to taking part in an “elaborate” scheme to fraudulently obtain Masters tickets and resell them at a hefty profit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia announced Monday.

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Stephen Michael Freeman of Katy, Texas agreed to a sentence of 36 months in federal prison and $157,493.70 in community restitution. His parents, Steven Lee Freeman and Diane Freeman, also agreed to pay $59,000 each in community restitution and will be subject to sentencing by the court, as will his sister Christine Oliverson.

The conspiracy to commit wire fraud charge that all four pleaded guilty to carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

How the Freeman family ripped off the Masters and its fans

Per the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s release, the Freemans admitted in court that they purchased a bulk list and used its names and addresses to create several fake accounts in the August National Golf Club’s online ticket system, essentially a lottery for Masters tickets. None of the individuals whose identities were used knew of the scheme.

When any of those fake accounts were awarded tickets, Stephen Freeman, or someone acting on his behalf, would create fake IDs — drivers licenses, utility bills and credit card statements — to convince Augusta to change the winning mailing address to one that his family controlled.

A few months later, the tickets would arrive and the family would resell them at the breathtaking markup the Masters’ secondary ticket market is known for. Just this year, single-day passes were being sold for as much as $7,850 and Ticketmaster had a four-day pass on sale for $14,000.

“This scheme was designed to profit from the resale of tickets, but in the process, it also would have denied legitimate citizens a fair chance to obtain tickets to a prestigious golf tournament,” FBI agent Chris Hacker said in the statement. “We hope that this case sends a message that the FBI will make it a priority to investigate these cases, and if you get caught, you will pay the price.”

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