Two former White Sox ticket sellers have been charged in federal court in Chicago with a scheme to sell thousands of fraudulently created game tickets through a fence on the online resale forum StubHub, costing the club at least $1 million.
A 14-count indictment made public Friday alleged that James Costello and William O’Neil used identification codes belonging to other White Sox employees to generate complimentary and discount game tickets in exchange for cash payments without receiving the required vouchers.
Costello and O’Neil then provided the tickets to ticket broker Bruce Lee, their middleman, who sold them on StubHub at prices below face value, the charges allege.
Lee owned the Chicago-based brokerage Great Tickets.
Lee earned more than $860,000 by selling nearly 35,000 tickets over four baseball seasons from 2016 to 2019, the charges allege.
In the indictment, which was returned Thursday, Lee, 34 and of Chicago, was charged with 11 counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering.
Costello, 66 and of New Lenox, was charged with one count of wire fraud and O’Neil, 51, also of New Lenox, was charged with making a false statement to the FBI.
Because of their alleged scheme, the White Sox lost about $1 million.
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An arraignment date has not yet been set.
Back in late December 2018, Lee had gotten in the feds’ crosshairs when White Sox officials spotted the mind-boggling number of tickets he was selling and realized something was amiss.
According to the affidavit, the White Sox analytics team first noticed the strange anomaly in data shared between StubHub and the team through a partnership with Major League Baseball.
The number of tickets sold by Lee through StubHub stood out because it was thousands of times greater than anyone else on the site, according to the affidavit. In 2018 alone, for example, he sold at least 11,000 White Sox tickets on the site -- 10,871 more than his closest competitor, the document said.
But it wasn’t only the massive volume of tickets that alerted the White Sox front office -- nearly all the tickets Lee sold involved complimentary “ticket vouchers’’ given by the team to friends and family of the players, youth groups and commercial sponsors, the records show.
Seeing the irregularity caused a senior team vice president to suspect Lee was getting inside help so the vice president contacted the FBI.
The White Sox also found evidence that Lee was able to use inside information to capitalize on fan interest in a particular game, according to the FBI document.
For example, just hours after the White Sox announced in August 2018 that highly regarded rookie pitcher Michael Kopech was going to make his debut against the Minnesota Twins, Lee began posting tickets to the game for sale, winding up with more than 500 sales. Online baseball records show the official attendance for the Tuesday night game totaled 23,133.
The federal investigation isn't the first time Lee has found himself in trouble over illegal ticket sales, court records show. In 2007, Lee pleaded guilty in Cook County court to a misdemeanor count of "selling tickets not in a box office" and was sentenced to a day in jail, records show. On two other occasions in 2007 and 2008, he was charged with ticket-related offenses, but both cases were dropped.
Despite the ongoing probe, it appeared Lee had continued to sell tickets to sporting events around Chicago. In September, he advertised tickets to the Chicago Bears game with the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on a Facebook page bearing the same name as the email address searched by the FBI.