Texas family admits to massive scheme to land Masters Tournament tickets

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Augusta's most notorious second-place finishers

Four members of a Texas family have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in what prosecutors say was a scheme that used stolen identities to obtain tickets to the Masters Tournament, which were then resold for a profit.

U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine’s office said in a news release Monday that Stephen Michael Freeman of Katy, Texas, pleaded guilty before a federal judge in Augusta, to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Freeman’s parents — Steven Lee Freeman and Diane Freeman of Helotes, Texas — and a sister, Christine Oliverson of San Antonio, pleaded guilty to the same charge.

Federal prosecutors said the defendants will pay more than $275,000 in restitution as part of a plea agreement. Stephen Michael Freeman also agreed to a three-year prison sentence.

Entry to witness one of golf’s top tournaments at Augusta National Golf Course is one of the most sought after tickets in the world. Badges for practice round days fetch thousands of dollars on the secondary market.

Court records say that from 2013 to 2017, the Freeman family used names from a bulk mailing list they had previously obtained to enter the lottery Augusta National Golf Club uses to sell Masters tickets. The names were submitted with email addresses the family created and controlled.

Stephen Michael Freeman, a former high school physics teacher, and his family went so far as to create fake driver licenses, fake utility bills and false credit card statements for those user accounts.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia said in April that prosecutors had not seen any Masters ticket scheme cases that remotely “rose to this level” in terms of scale.

Prosecutors have not revealed how many tickets the Freemans obtained, but say they managed to make a “substantial profit” from the scheme.

“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,” Christine said when her office brought up charges earlier this year.