NFL marketing agent Mike Ornstein plead guilty to two felonies thanks to unlawfully capitalising on his insider access. SportsBusiness Journal broke the story last week. League employees are permitted to purchase a certain number of Super Bowl tickets at face value. They are strictly forbidden from reselling them. Ornstein bought such tickets or overpaid other employees for their allotment, and resold them at a higher value between 1998 and 2006.
Ornstein also produced fake certificates of authenticity for jerseys he labelled “game-worn.” The multi-million dollar sports memorabilia industry depends on the trustworthiness of those certificates to appraise collector items.
He was charged with conspiracy, for secretly scalping the tickets, and mail fraud, for transmitting the false documents. It’s the second time Ornstein has been charged with mail fraud during his four decade tenure with the NFL.
All told, Ornstein netted about $350,000 from his illegal operations over the eight year period. He is forced to repay that sum as part of the guilty plea.
The most fascinating aspect of the news could very well be the court testimony. Ornstein needed help from other league employees–both in procuring the Super Bowl tickets, and in dealing with the “game worn” jerseys–to commit these crimes. Though known, and well-liked, for his loyalty, Ornstein could crack under federal investigation and name other names.
It’s also a near certainty that Ornstein was not the only league employee to scalp tickets. Maybe he’ll clue investigators to other potential cases. After all, his NFL network runs far and wide, as the SportsBusiness Journal reports that he worked closely with more than half the league’s teams.
Ornstein is most closely connected to the defending champion New Orleans Saints. He’s good friends with coach Sean Payton and was often seen around their locker room during last season’s Super Bowl run. He represented Reggie Bush during his first two seasons in the league, and signed him to $50 million worth of endorsement deals before he was ever drafted.
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