Microsoft in Redmond. Photo courtesy of Jiaqian AirplaneFan

Microsoft in Redmond. Photo courtesy of Jiaqian AirplaneFan

Ex-director of Microsoft sports marketing pleads guilty to fraud charges

Jeff Tran also illegally sold the company’s Super Bowl tickets.

The former director of sports marketing and alliances at Microsoft pled guilty last week to wire fraud charges and a profit scheme to steal money from the Redmond-based tech company.

The plea was made on Jan. 31 in the U.S. District Court in Seattle and Jeff Tran, who also goes by Trung Tran, will be sentenced on May 10.

Tran attempted to steal more than $1.5 million from Microsoft by creating and submitting fraudulent invoices and through his use of unauthorized Microsoft assets, details from the plea agreement revealed. Tran oversaw the company’s promotional relationship with the National Football League and in this capacity, was in charge of requesting that Microsoft authorize payments to third-party service providers, court documents state.

The criminal charges surround two fraudulent invoices created in 2017. The first invoice Tran allegedly prepared and submitted was a fake purchase order on March 7 that requested Microsoft pay $999,000 to Wasserman Media Group. The agency was contracted to provide Microsoft-NFL relationship promotional services.

The charge was supposedly for services provided during the 2017 Super Bowl and Microsoft approved the purchase order paying the funds to Waserman. Tran then contacted his primary contact at Sandoval Ventures, a talent management company that he “worked closely with,” prosecutors said, and asked that they send Wasserman a Sandoval invoice billing Microsoft for $775,000 for services on behalf of Microsoft. These services never happened.

Tran told both companies that the invoice would pay a third-party vendor providing services to Microsoft, and that Microsoft’s policy had restrictions on the number of vendors allowed for payment per project.

Sandoval sent Wasserman the $775,000 bill and Wasserman paid this out of the Microsoft funds distributed to Wasserman under the fake purchase order. Sandoval, under Tran’s direction, gave Tran a $775,000 check made out to Tran. He deposited this into his First Tech Bank account and wired it to another state, the plea agreement says. Tran allegedly communicated to Sandoval that the money would get forwarded to the third-party vendor.

A second fraudulent invoice for $670,000 in July 2017 was made out to pay “Trade Craft Consulting,” a trade controlled by Tran.

Tran’s charges also stem from a misappropriated selling of 75 Super Bowl game tickets — Microsoft purchased for business-related purposes — and 99 tailgate tickets in 2016 and 2017, for a total cost of $249,000.

Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors recommended a sentence of no more than 36 months of prison time. The court will ultimately determine Tran’s sentence length.

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