Microsoft’s former sports marketing director has been charged with trying to embezzle around $1.5 million from the company and stealing more than 60 Super Bowl tickets that were meant for Microsoft employees. Jeff Tran was indicted yesterday after an FBI investigation, and he’s facing five counts of wire fraud, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
The indictment alleges that Tran started his embezzlement scheme in January 2017 when he intercepted a block of Super Bowl tickets intended for Microsoft employees. Tran oversaw Microsoft’s relationship with the NFL, and, according to the filing, Tran claimed he would personally deliver the tickets to company managers. Instead, he sold around 60 of them to a broker for $200,000. Then, he made another $12,400 by selling some tickets to a Microsoft employee who thought Tran had purchased them with his own money.
Tran allegedly made $200,000 reselling over 60 tickets
A few months later, Tran allegedly hatched an even more lucrative plan. He convinced a consulting company to send Microsoft a $775,000 invoice on behalf of an unnamed (and fictitious) vendor, threatening to terminate Microsoft’s relationship with the company if it refused. The money went into Tran’s bank account.
Tran supposedly tried the same gambit in July, asking for a $670,000 invoice and saying he planned to request $500,000 more in the future. This time, the consulting company became suspicious and alerted Microsoft, which questioned Tran about the money. Tran claimed he’d never seen the invoice, deleted incriminating text messages, and — after being presented with evidence — said he’d been “hacked.” Eventually, he returned the $775,000 payment to Microsoft.
“When we learned of Mr. Tran’s conduct we investigated, terminated his employment, and then referred the matter to law enforcement,” a Microsoft spokesperson tells The Verge.
Before his firing, Tran helped manage a years-long partnership that made Microsoft Surface devices the “official tablet” of the NFL. The agreement reportedly cost Microsoft $400 million, and it hit some road bumps, like sportscasters calling the Surface an iPad. Nonetheless, the deal was extended for another year in December 2017, presumably without Tran’s oversight.
Update 11:45AM ET: Updated with Microsoft statement.