A former University of Kansas athletics department consultant pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Wichita to conspiring to steal millions of dollars worth of sports tickets.
Thomas Ray Blubaugh, 46, is married to Charlette Blubaugh, the former KU ticket operations director who pleaded guilty Thursday.
Federal authorities announced in November that the Blubaughs and three others had been indicted in a conspiracy to steal about $2 million worth of tickets to football and basketball games from 2005 to 2010 and sell them to individuals and ticket brokers.
Blubaugh pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He agreed to forfeit, with others convicted in the case, $2 million in proceeds and other property.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Blubaugh, a former ticket operations director at the University of Oklahoma, came to Lawrence after his wife secured a similar job at KU in 2004. By at least the fall of that year, according to university records, he was performing occasional consulting work for the school.
The university eventually paid him $116,500, even though senior athletics department officials did not know he was on the payroll.
They learned of his employment May 13, long after federal and university investigations of the ticket scandal had started.
Ben Kirtland, a co-defendant in the case, allegedly signed his invoices.
Blubaugh and his lawyer declined comment after the hearing.
Blubaugh answered questions at the hearing in a hoarse voice.
"You're not claiming you're innocent?" asked U.S. District Judge Wesley E. Brown.
"No, sir," Blubaugh said.
The federal and university investigations into the scam led to the resignations of seven top athletics department staff members.
Kassie Liebsch, a former KU ticket director, and Rodney Jones, former assistant athletic director in charge of the Williams Educational Fund, previously pleaded guilty. Two other former employees, Jason Jeffries and Brandon Simmons, pleaded guilty to related charges in July, before the five others were indicted. Like all of the defendants who have pleaded guilty thus far, the Blubaughs are cooperating with authorities.
"He will continue to cooperate with the government in the prosecution of others in this case," Stephen Robison, Blubaugh's attorney, told the judge.
Kirtland, the only remaining defendant, is scheduled for trial March 8.
Richard Hathaway, a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said Blubaugh began obtaining tickets from his wife in 2007 and, through an intermediary, sold them to ticket brokers in Oklahoma. He split the cash with his wife, Hathaway said.
Thomas Blubaugh's work for the university became known 13 days before the university released an extensive internal investigation on the scandal. His role in the scheme has been unclear.
The university investigation suggested that he helped his wife and Kirtland destroy records at KU's football stadium when his wife could not get ticket records to reconcile for the 2008-09 basketball season.
At Charlette Blubaugh's plea hearing Thursday, a prosecutor said that Charlette Blubaugh held back large groups of tickets for distribution to Kirtland, Jones, Liebsch and Thomas Blubaugh.