Texas family sentenced in Masters ticket scheme

Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 5:34 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - They were called a family of “profiteering con artists” that federal investigators said tried to game the Masters ticket system to their advantage.

Now, they will also be known as inmates.

Four members of the Texas family that authorities said managed to obtain Masters tickets in an effort to sell them for profit were all given various sentences on Monday.

Stephen Michael Freeman, 42, who was known by federal agents as the “ringleader” in this case, received 28 months in prison and three years of supervised release pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Freeman’s parents, Steven Lee Freeman, 67, and Diane Freeman, 66, and his sister, Christine Oliverson, 37, also received three years of probation after also pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The younger Stephen Freeman will also pay restitution of over $150,000 while his parents will also pay $59,000 each. That money -- $50,000 of it specifically -- will go to First Tee of Augusta and the rest will go 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,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “In the end, their greed-fueled scheme unraveled thanks to an alert Augusta National staff member and excellent investigative work from the FBI.”

Court documents and testimony revealed Stephen Freeman purchased a bulk mailing list and used that information to create multiple fraudulent accounts that he used to enter the Masters ticket lottery system since 2013.

If any of those identities were chosen to receive tickets, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says, Stephen would then would create fake identification documents to persuade the Augusta National to change the winner’s mailing address to one that was under control of the conspiracy.

The Augusta National Golf Club managed to detect the scam through similarities in some of the applications, investigators said.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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