A former employee of professional golf’s governing body stole thousands of highly coveted tickets to one of the sport’s premier events, sold them year after year, and pocketed a profit of more than $1 million, federal authorities said Tuesday.
Prosecutors accused Robert Fryer, the former assistant director in the U.S. Golf Association’s ticketing office, of conspiring with two eastern Pennsylvania ticket resale companies to provide 23,000 pilfered passes to U.S. Men’s Open tournaments between 2013 and 2019 — with a face value of more than $3.4 million.
They allegedly paid him $1.15 million for his efforts and resold the tickets for a combined profit of $1.7 million.
Prosecutors did not identify either of the implicated ticket resale businesses in announcing the charges against Fryer. But acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams accused Fryer of exploiting both fans and his position at the USGA, a New Jersey-based organization.
“Criminals that conduct ticket schemes like this prey on the excitement surrounding big events,” she said in a statement Tuesday.
Typically, the USGA sells Open passes directly to fans or to a select group of authorized resellers, and caps sales at 20 tickets per person or business.
But if recent resale prices for the annual tournament — one of the four major championships in men’s golf each year — are any indication, golf enthusiasts are willing to pay almost any price.
Investigators allege Fryer’s scheme began during the 2013 Men’s Open, held at the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore. Resale ticket prices for that event ranged on sites like StubHub and eBay from $20 for single-day, practice-round access to $2,500 for a weekly badge.
By packaging tickets with luxury hotel stays and dinners with players, resellers can charge many times more.
According to court filings, the two resellers Fryer worked with would send email requests for bundles of dozens of tickets at a time. Fryer would agree to either mail the tickets or deliver them in person, sometimes at the golf club where the tournament was taking place, the documents say.
USGA officials said Tuesday they learned of the theft when contacted by federal authorities several months ago. They said they have since taken steps to implement a new ticketing platform and hired an outside auditor to help prevent similar thefts in the future.
“The USGA was both appreciative and fully supportive of the efforts of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office [for] the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in this investigation,” spokesperson Beth Major said in a statement.
Fryer, 39, of Perkasie, faces charges of conspiracy as well as wire and mail fraud. A conviction on the most serious count could send him to federal prison for up to 20 years.
Court filings indicate he waived his right to be indicted by a grand jury — a sign that typically indicates a defendant has agreed to plead guilty.
It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether he had retained an attorney.