Kansas ticket official gets 57 months

WICHITA, Kan. -- A former associate director in charge of the University of Kansas ticket office and "gatekeeper" for stolen tickets was sentenced Thursday to 57 months in prison for her role in the $2 million conspiracy.

Prosecutors accused Charlette Blubaugh, 44, of providing tickets for basketball and football games to others who sold them for personal profit.

Blubaugh and her husband, Thomas, both of Medford, Okla., pleaded guilty in January to a single count of conspiracy to defraud the United States through wire fraud, tax obstruction and interstate transportation of stolen property.

She also was sentenced to pay a share of the more than $2 million in restitution, along with others convicted in the conspiracy, and was ordered to spend three years under court supervision once she is released from prison.

Her husband has been sentenced to a 46-month prison term.

The government said Charlette Blubaugh provided the tickets to the other four conspirators as well as two other officials who were convicted in a related case on a lesser charge. Prosecutors said she manipulated the computer system to cover up and facilitate the conspiracy, lied to investigators and discussed ways to manipulate or sabotage the computer system to prevent investigators from using it to trace stolen tickets back to the conspirators.

"The defendant was not the highest ranking employee of KU involved in this conspiracy, but she is one of the most culpable," prosecutors wrote in their pre-sentencing memo to Judge Wesley Brown. "She was the gatekeeper for all stolen tickets."

Defense attorney David Rapp said Blubaugh accepted responsibility for her actions.

"Of course she is sorry," Brown interrupted. "We're all sorry this occurred, but it did occur."

In a court filing last week, Charlette Blubaugh said the school did not actually lose any money because those tickets would not have been sold anyway -- an argument the government has called an "incredible and frivolous claim."

Another defense attorney, John Rapp, wrote that the tickets his client stole from Kansas Athletics Inc., the nonprofit that promotes Kansas athletics, were hold tickets used to correct last-minute seating problems that would not have been sold. He also claimed it "appeared likely" that no one was denied a ticket by her illegal conduct.

But prosecutors argued that 14 boxes of unsold tickets and parking passes recently recovered from the couple's personal storage unit showed the loss to the university could be higher than previously known. Some of the tickets were unsold -- known as deadwood tickets -- but there were also more than 3,000 tickets in those boxes for a sold-out Orange Bowl, along with thousands of parking passes and tickets to sold-out football games with Kansas State University.

Seven people have been snared in the investigation into the unlawful sale of football and basketball season tickets by key athletic department officials to ticket brokers and others in which the employees pocketed the money. All pleaded guilty. Blubaugh is the sixth defendant to be sentenced in the case.

Former associate athletic director of development Ben Kirtland is set for sentencing on May 12.