AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Four people in a Texas family are being sentenced for fraudulently obtaining Masters Tournament tickets for resale. The head of the scheme faces time in federal prison.
42-year-old Stephen Michael Freeman of Athens, Ga. has been sentenced to 28 months in prison and three years of supervised release after he plead guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud.
Freeman’s parents, 67-year-old Steven Lee Freeman and 66-year-old Diane Freeman of Helotes Texas as well as his sister, 37-year-old Christine Oliverson of San Antonio were all sentenced to three years of probation after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud.
Stephen Michael Freeman, as part of a plea agreement, paid $157,493.70 in community restitution. Steven Lee and Diane Freeman each agreed to pay $59,000 in community restitution. $50,000 of restitution funds are to be given to the First Tee of Augusta and the remainder to the Community Foundation of the CSRA.
“Long before COVID-19 temporarily prevented patrons from visiting the Masters Tournament, these profiteering con artists managed to steal hundreds of tickets from the Augusta National’s generous ticket lottery and sell them for enormous profits. In the end, their greed-fueled scheme unraveled thanks to an alert Augusta National staff member and excellent investigative work from the FBI.”Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
Stephen Michael Freeman purchased a bulk mailing list and used the identities without the individuals’ knowledge to create fraudulent accounts that were entered in the Augusta National Golf Club’s ticket application system. He made the accounts as far back as 2013. He then had his family participate in the scheme.
When any of the fraudulent applicants received notice they were selected for tickets, Freeman or his family members involved, created fake identification documents including driver’s licenses, utility bills and credit card statements to have the Augusta National change the winner’s mailing address to one the Freeman family could access.
An employee with the Augusta National detected the scam after noticing similarities between different applications for address changes. Three years before the scam was detected, the family received tickets by mail and would then resell them for a considerable profit.
“The FBI will go to great lengths to disrupt any scheme that would circumvent a fair process by denying our citizens the right to compete for tickets to any public or private event. “This scheme was designed to profit off legitimate citizens’ fair chance to obtain tickets to a prestigious golf tournament, and they must pay the price for their greed.”Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta.