A Pennsylvania man who stole tickets to the 2013 U.S. Open and other golf tournaments for a multi-million-dollar scheme was sentenced to 14 months behind bars on Wednesday.
Robert Fryer, a 40-year-old resident of Perkasie, was working for the U.S. Golf Association in 2013 when he discovered “a weakness in the USGA’s ticket tracking protocol,” allowing him to “steal tickets to the U.S. Open without the knowledge of the USGA,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia.
The U.S. Open was played that year at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and Fryer went on to steal passes to every U.S. Open through 2019, feeding them to ticket brokers Jeremi Michael Conaway, 46, and James Bell, 70, the government said.
“This defendant stole revenue from an American institution and legitimate business that pays taxes, employs many, supports a non-profit organization, and brings excitement and income to our district with U.S. Open events at courses like the Merion Golf Club,” U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said in a statement.
“Criminals that conduct ticket schemes like this prey on the excitement surrounding big events; fans should remember that any item with a low price that seems ‘too good to be true’ should be cause for caution and concern.”
Bell was sentenced to six months in prison and Conaway was ordered to spend two months behind bars.
Fryer’s lawyer, Robert Goldman, said his client’s 14-month sentence was excessive, believing the ticket brokers were the people truly in charge of the operation.
“The judge said in court that Fryer, since he had the access to the tickets, that he was the most culpable of the three,” Goldman told NBC News on Thursday.
“I made the argument there was never any set amount for what he’d get for the tickets he was giving. Conaway would just give him whatever amounts Conaway felt like giving him.”
Fryer received a little less than $1.2 million over the course of the scheme that netted tickets worth about $3 million, prosecutors said.
Fryer is scheduled to surrender to prison in mid-September with hopes of being sent to a halfway house to serve the final six months his sentence, according to Goldman.
The defense lawyer blamed his remorseful client’s gambling addiction as the motive for the ticket thefts and said Fryer has been trying to make amends.
“When the FBI came knocking on his door, he immediately acknowledged what he did. We sat down with the USGA to help them see where their security problems were and how to avoid this in the future,” Goldman said.
“He was a compulsive gambler. Most of them money went out to gamble and to pay off bookies.”