A Texas family's elaborate, years-long scheme to make a "substantial profit" off lottery tickets to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club could result in not only "substantial" fines but "substantial prison time."
Just over a week after Tiger Woods secured his 5th career Masters championship and 15th major championship, the Associated Press reported that federal prosecutors have charged a Texas family for a years-long Masters ticket scam involving identity theft and mail and wire fraud that carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
According to charges filed in U.S. District Court in Augusta, four members of a family from Texas over the course of five years — 2013 to 2017 — used multiple stolen identities and addresses obtained from a bulk mailing list in order to "cheat the lottery system that distributes tournament tickets and to circumvent Augusta National Golf Club's rules allowing people to apply only once to enter its ticket lottery," AP reports.
How many Masters tickets the family allegedly obtained and how much they made in profit is not specified in the court filings, but prosecutors say the family members are guilty of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
"According to court documents, the four defendants used names and addresses from a purchased bulk mailing list to create multiple fraudulent accounts in the Augusta National Golf Club’s online ticket application system," Augusta's Fox 28 reports. "All this occurred without the knowledge or permission of the individuals whose identities were used."
"The family would then ask Augusta National to change the addresses associated with the bogus accounts, using 'false driver licenses, false utility bills and false credit card statements in the identity of the fake user accounts' sent by mail, the court documents said," AP reports.
In this way, the tickets the family won through Augusta's ticket lottery would be received by the family members, at which point they would resell the tickets at what prosecutors describe as a "substantial profit."
In a press release this week, U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine denounced the family members as "profiteering con artists" whose "despicable" actions robbed people of the chance to win tickets to the "cherished" event.
"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 a statement reported by Fox. "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."
FBI Special Agent Chris Hacker, who heads up the FBI's Atlanta department, stressed in a statement that the family's "greed" could result in "substantial prison time."
"Because of the defendants’ greed, they now face substantial prison time if convicted of the alleged crimes," said the agent. "The FBI will always make it a priority to investigate anyone who tries to circumvent a fair process, whether it is the Masters or any other private or public entity."
The charges carry significant monetary fines and up to 20 years in prison, Christine explained.