Federal investigators probing sports ticket skimming at the University of Kansas got another boost Thursday when a second former athletics official pleaded guilty in federal court.
Brandon W. Simmons, 30, pleaded guilty to knowing about the theft of athletic tickets but concealing it from authorities. And like a former colleague who pleaded guilty the day before, Simmons agreed to continue helping authorities.
"He's cooperated from the very get-go in this thing," Simmons' lawyer, Mark Bennett Jr., said after the hearing. "He's been interviewed twice by KU and by federal agents and provided every piece of information he's been asked for."
Before his resignation was announced in April, Simmons served as the university's assistant athletic director for sales and marketing. Jason Jeffries, who pleaded guilty in the case Wednesday, worked as the athletic department's assistant director for sales and marketing.
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An internal university investigation released in May alleged that five KU athletics employees and a consultant sold or used more than 17,000 men's basketball tickets and more than 2,000 football tickets from 2005 to 2010.
Accountants calculated the value of the ticket losses at about $1 million but noted it could be as much as $3 million.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Barnett said the government's case against Simmons was substantial. In addition to Simmons' interviews with investigators and a ticket office audit released in May, prosecutors also had testimony from other witnesses who could speak about his activity in the ticket office.
Barnett said Simmons took tickets to which he was not entitled and sent them to a ticket broker in Oklahoma. The thefts were concealed by "phonied up" books, Barnett said. She also suggested that Simmons profited from the scheme.
"He did not report the additional income to the appropriate authorities, or certainly to the authorities at the University of Kansas," Barnett said.
According to KU's internal report, the Oklahoma ticket broker paid Simmons $212,480 between 2007 and 2010. The report suggests, however, that some of that money may have gone to Jeffries for tickets he was selling to the broker.
In establishing whether the defendant fully understood the plea agreement he had just signed, U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown asked Simmons about his education. Simmons replied that he had done master's degree work at the University of Oklahoma.
"A Sooner?" Brown asked.
"Yes," Simmons replied.
"You can read and write, then," Brown concluded. "They do teach that at the University of Oklahoma?."
"Yes, sir," Simmons said.