Masters patron shows off his many badges in stylish fashion. (Getty Images)
By Joel Beall
On Monday a Texas family pleaded guilty to federal charges to a scheme involving stolen identities to obtain Masters badges.
In the tournament’s hometown of Augusta, Ga., Stephen Freeman appeared before a U.S. District Court to admit to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. As part of a plea deal, Freeman agreed to three years in federal prison.
Freeman’s sister and parents pleaded guilty to the same crime. However, their pleas called for no jail time. The four will have to pay more than $275,000 in restitution, according to a release from the office of U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine.
“These profiteering con artists thought they had succeeded in hijacking the Augusta National’s generous ticket lottery system to satisfy their own greed,” Christine, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, said in a statement.
From 2013 to 2017, the Freemans obtained names from a bulk mailing list to create fake accounts within the Masters badge lottery, according to court documents. The Freemans created fake email addresses for these individuals, and when they won badges, false identities—using driver licenses, utility bills and credit card statements—would be used to contact Augusta National officials to send the tickets to a different address.
The Freemans would then sell the badges through secondary markets for profit.
“The Masters is one of the world’s great sporting events, and tickets to the tournament are cherished by their fortunate recipients,” Christine said in April. “Using fraud and deceit to circumvent the Augusta National’s generous lottery system is despicable, and those who follow the rules in hopes of winning tickets deserve better than to have their chances diminished by profiteering con artists.”
All four defendants still face sentencing before a federal judge, who can accept or reject terms of their plea deals.