Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Two former Chicago White Sox employees charged with $1 million ticket fraud

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Two former Chicago White Sox employees have been charged after allegedly scheming with a ticket broker to fraudulently sell thousands of tickets to baseball games, Jon Seidel of the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday.

The report says ex-ticket sellers James Costello and William O’Neil funneled tickets to broker Bruce Lee, allowing him to sell those tickets on StubHub for a large profit. Lee now faces 11 counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering, according to the Sun-Times report. Costello was charged with one count of wire fraud, while O’Neil is charged with lying to the FBI.

According to the Sun-Times, Lee allegedly sold 6,323 tickets during the 2016 baseball season, 17,408 during the 2017 season, and an additional 11,115 during the 2018 season, all below face value. It’s reported the scheme cost the White Sox nearly $1 million.

Year-long investigation

According to Seidel’s original report on Oct. 25, 2019, a White Sox senior vice president first approached the FBI in October 2018 to report Lee. The White Sox were alarmed after their data analytics team discovered Lee had sold substantially more tickets on StubHub than any other broker over the previous three seasons.

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Suspicion grew around Aug. 21, 2018. That’s the day White Sox top pitching prospect Michael Kopechmade his MLB debut. According to a December 2018 affidavit, that particular game against the Minnesota Twins had drawn minimal interest until Kopech was announced as the starting pitcher. As interest quickly picked up, it was discovered that Lee suddenly had an abundance of tickets available.

According to the affidavit, Lee sold 500 tickets to that game. Teams officials felt that “could not have happened without a White Sox employee providing inside assistance.”

Here’s more from the Sun-Times report in October:

[su_quote] Further, the team determined that more than 96 percent of the broker’s ticket sales involved complimentary vouchers, which go to friends and family of the players, youth groups, commercial sponsors and others — and are not meant for sale. The FBI agent wrote that, “it is reasonably believed that there is no legitimate means for anyone to obtain the high volume of complimentary tickets” the broker sold on StubHub. The broker’s volume also “was higher than any other StubHub ticket seller by a substantial margin.” [/su_quote]

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According to Friday’s Sun-Times report, Costello allegedly generated the tickets while using other employees’ ID codes to access White Sox computers. O’Neil was reportedly brought into the scheme during the 2017 season.

The White Sox have not yet commented on the investigation or the reported charges.

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