Texas family charged in scheme to buy Masters tickets fraudulently
Four members of a family from Texas face charges over a scheme to illegally obtain Masters tickets through the tournament's online application system and resell them for a profit, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia.
The FBI investigated the case that is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara Lyons, according to a news release published Monday.
Stephen Michael Freeman, of Katy, Texas, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and identity theft. Stephen Freeman's parents, Steven Lee Freeman and Diane Freeman, of Helotes, Texas, and his sister, Christine Oliverson, of San Antonio, face charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
If convicted, the defendants face penalties of up to 20 years and prison and substantial fines.
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In court documents, prosecutors describe how Stephen Michael Freeman, a former high school physics teacher, and his relatives applied for spectator tickets through the Augusta National Incorporated (ANI) online application process. As part of the application process, a person must create an account providing a name, address, telephone number, year of birth and last four digits of the applicant's social security number.
ANI's rules state that only one application is allowed per household and that the applicant should use a permanent residential address. Applications that are determined to have false or misleading information will not be considered and will have any offer of tickets withdrawn.
Prosecutors say Stephen Michael Freeman, his mother, father and sister gamed the system by conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud from 2013 through 2017 by creating false user accounts to purchase Masters tickets. The four are accused of using names and addresses they obtained from a purchased bulk mailing list to register online with ANI. None of the people whose identities were used gave permission or had knowledge of the scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
At times, Stephen Michael Freeman, Steven Lee Freeman and Diane Freeman would mail and fax letters to ANI in efforts to change addresses originally registered to the fraudulent accounts, prosecutors say. Stephen Michael Freeman, Diane Freeman and Oliverson are accused of creating fake driver licenses, fake utility bills and false credit card statements for those fake user accounts.
While the court documents don't state how many tickets were obtained, the Freemans are alleged to have recovered tickets awarded to user accounts by ANI and then sell them for a "substantial profit."
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia said Tuesday that prosecutors had not seen any Masters ticket scheme cases that remotely "rose to this level" in terms of scale.
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