Microsoft's partnership with the NFL maybe sliding into the recesses of most viewers minds as Surface Pro devices have become a bit more ubiquitous as set pieces in a growing roster of media outlets that include more sporting events, news, and cinema.
However, it seems Microsoft and the NFL are about to make waves tangentially relating to their collaborative time with the Surface promotion as GeekWire has reported that a former company executive has been sentenced to twenty-eight months in prison for invoice and Super Bowl ticket fraud.
The former director of Microsoft's sports marketing department, Jeff Tran, plead guilty in January to wire fraud, use of fake invoices and Super Bowl tickets. Tran's trifecta of crime total's $1.5 million that he sought to steal from Microsoft by selling 75 NFL game tickets and 99 tailgate tickets to the 2016 and 2017 Super Bowl events. The Super Bowl tickets Tran attempted to hawk were originally intended to go to Microsoft employees, presumably as part of the company's ongoing marketing relationship with the league.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office,
TRAN oversaw Microsoft’s promotional relationship with the National Football League (NFL). Tran’s scheme began in January of 2016. Tran, who was responsible for distributing Microsoft’s Super Bowl tickets to Microsoft employees, secretly misappropriated over $40,000 worth of 2016 Super Bowl tickets and sold them to a New York ticket broker. He repeated this activity the following year, this misappropriating tickets worth more than $200,000 for the 2017 Super Bowl.
Tran continued his theft after the 2017 Super Bowl. In March 2017, TRAN persuaded a Microsoft vendor to invoice Microsoft $775,000 for supposed services the vendor had never provided. Tran explained the request by telling the vendor the services had been provided by another company that could not bill Microsoft directly because it had not gone through Microsoft’s accreditation process. At Tran’s direction, Microsoft paid the $775,000 invoice to the vendor, and the vendor forwarded the proceeds to Tran.
In July 2017, Tran attempted to repeat the invoicing scheme, and asked the vendor to prepare a $670,000 invoice for services it had not provided. This time, the vendor became suspicious and reported Tran’s activity to Microsoft. When Microsoft confronted Tran, Tran made false statements to corporate investigators, destroyed evidence, and attempted to persuade witnesses to lie to investigators.
In addition to a federal investigation, Microsoft also began investigating Tran early on, as third-party vendors began flagging suspicious invoices.
While Tran has paid back $1,036,800 to Microsoft, dodge the full five counts of wire, and maximum 20 years he could have initially faced, he will ultimately serve 28 months in prison as well as being fined an additional $50,000 by Chief US District Judge Ricardo Martinez.