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Feds charge broker, ex-White Sox employees in years-long ticket scam

Bruce Lee allegedly made $868,369 by fraudulently selling 34,876 White Sox tickets between the 2016 and 2019 seasons.

Chicago White Sox starter Michael Kopech pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the baseball game during his Major League Debut on Aug. 21, 2018, in Chicago.
AP file photo

A prolific broker and two former Chicago White Sox employees have been charged in an alleged scheme to fraudulently sell thousands of tickets to the South Siders’ ballgames, ultimately costing the team roughly $1 million.

The broker, 34-year-old Bruce Lee, of Chicago, has been charged along with former ticket sellers James Costello, 66, and William O’Neil, 51, both of New Lenox. A 20-page indictment that became public Friday claims Lee made $868,369 by selling 34,876 tickets through the scam during the 2016 through 2019 baseball seasons.

Lee, owner of Great Tickets, faces 11 counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering. Costello is charged with one count of wire fraud, and O’Neil is charged with lying to the FBI when he claimed last March he never gave Lee complimentary White Sox tickets without the team’s knowledge.

Lee and his attorney, Robert Rascia, declined to comment when reached by the Sun-Times on Friday evening. Costello and O’Neil could not be reached.

The indictment alleges Costello and O’Neil generated thousands of complimentary and discount White Sox tickets — without required vouchers — and gave them to Lee in exchange for unspecified amounts of cash.

Costello allegedly generated the tickets for Lee while using other employees’ ID codes to access White Sox computers. He allegedly did so to avoid any detection by management of the large number of tickets he created. In 2017, he allegedly recruited O’Neil to help.

Lee allegedly sold 6,323 of the tickets during the 2016 baseball season, 17,408 during the 2017 season, 11,115 during the 2018 season and 30 in the run-up to the 2019 season. He sold the tickets exclusively on StubHub, below face value, because he thought that would conceal the source of the tickets, according to the indictment.

However, court records that became public in October show a White Sox senior vice president approached the FBI in October 2018 to report Lee. The Sox’s data analytics team had flagged him as a StubHub seller who had “sold more White Sox tickets than anyone else by a substantial margin.”

They also determined that more than 96 percent of his ticket sales involved complimentary vouchers, which go to friends and family of the players, youth groups, commercial sponsors and others — and are not meant for sale.

Pointing to the 11,000 tickets Lee allegedly sold during the 2018 season, the agent noted that the next most successful three sellers on StubHub sold just 129, 113 and 108 tickets, respectively.

The White Sox analytics team also “advised that it appears the White Sox employee or employees” were working with Lee.

For example, the affidavit said Lee sold 500 tickets to the Major League Baseball debut of rookie pitcher Michael Kopech in August 2018. The White Sox senior vice president thought such ticket sales “could not have happened without a White Sox employee providing inside assistance.”