Two former employees of the Chicago White Sox schemed with a ticket broker to fraudulently sell thousands of tickets to Sox games, according to an indictment returned in federal court in Chicago.
While working as ticket sellers for the White Sox, James Costello and William O’Neil fraudulently generated complimentary and discount game tickets without the team’s authorization and gave them to the broker, Bruce Lee, in exchange for cash payments, the 14-count indictment returned Jan. 31 states. Lee, who owned the Chicago-based ticket brokerage Great Tickets, then sold the tickets on the online marketplace StubHub at prices below face value, the indictment states.
During the 2016-19 baseball seasons, Lee earned $868,369 by selling 34,876 tickets that he fraudulently obtained from Costello and O’Neil, the charges allege. As a result of the scheme, the White Sox suffered a loss of $1 million, the indictment states.
Lee obtained nearly half of the fraudulent tickets (17,408) during the 2017 season.
Federal officials say Costello recruited O’Neill to help in the scheme at the start of the 2017 season.
Investigators said the baseball club’s rules and regulations require a physical voucher for any complimentary or discounted tickets to be issued and that the vouchers be retained in the ticket office. The team rules also prohibit ticket sellers from scalping tickets at any price, investigators said.
Costello was employed as a ticket seller from 2016 through the beginning of the 2019 season. O’Neil was a Sox ticket seller from 2017 through the beginning of the 2019 season.
StubHub’s terms of service prohibit the sale of stolen tickets.
Lee used StubHub for selling the tickets, investigators said, because he felt it would conceal the source of the tickets.
Investigators allege that Lee transferred:
- $100,000 from his Byline bank account to a real estate investment firm
- $50,000 to a suburban auto dealer
- $18,576 into his U.S. Bank account from ticket sales for Sox games against the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels
- $5,032 into his U.S. Bank account from ticket sales of Sox games against the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals
- $1,656 into his account from the sale of box seats for Sox games against the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians
- $2,176 into his account from the sale of Golden Box and Lower Box seats for games against the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians
- $6,020 from his StubHub account to his Great Tickets account from the sale of four Lower Box seats for a Sox game against the Detroit Tigers
The indictment alleges that Costello and O’Neil provided thousands of complimentary and discounted tickets to Lee without any vouchers in exchange for cash payments.
Costello allegedly used other Sox employees’ computer codes to access and print tickets.
The indictment was returned Jan. 29 in U.S. District Court in Chicago. It charges Lee, 34, of Chicago, with 11 counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering, while Costello, 66, of New Lenox, is charged with one count of wire fraud. O’Neil, 51, also of New Lenox, is charged with one count of making a false statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Arraignments have not yet been scheduled.
O’Neil allegedly falsely told FBI agents that he never supplied Lee with complementary tickets.
Each count of wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison, while each money-laundering count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. The false statement charge is punishable by up to five years. If convicted, the court must impose “reasonable sentences” under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
If Lee is convicted, federal officials said they will seek to recover the $868,369 the ticket broker allegedly obtained through the scheme.