We recently talked about tax refund scams, how they work and what people are doing to steal money from you. Now, just weeks after the income tax filing deadline we hear about three former NFL players facing identity theft and tax fraud chargers.
William Joseph, Michael Bennett and Louis Gachelin, all former NFL players have allegedly made the wrong play call and as a result may be suffering from more like a 15 year, instead of a 15 yard penalty. The former players were arrested by the FBI and are accused of working with a group of individuals on a game plan to steal tax refund checks.
Michael Bennett was a a first-round draft choice out of Wisconsin in 2001. He played five seasons for the Vikings and went on to play for Kansas City, Tampa Bay, San Diego and Oakland. His team includes William Joseph and Louis Gachelin.
William Joseph ended his career with the Raiders, where he had been teammates with Bennett. From the University of Miami he went on to be know as “the Haitian Sensations’’after he and his brother Carlos teamed up. He was then drafted by the New York Giants and after playing five seasons with the Giants; he spent two years with the Oakland Raiders.
Louis Gachelin started his college and professional career at the Syracuse University, then signed as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots in 2004. After his waiver he played in the NFL Europe with the Frankfurt Galaxy as defensive tackle in 2005 and is also the half brother of NFL player Elvis Dumervil.
The game plan
The men, along with their “front line” of five other accused, allegedly filed false income tax returns and received the income tax refunds from those returns. Using a check cashing store front, they cashed the checks. In a separate but related issues, one of the players shared their store front operation with Bennett who then attempted to apply for a $200,000 loan providing falsified bank records and other financial information as collateral for the loan.
How were they benched?
According to PINewswire “During the three-month undercover operation, the defendants negotiated with undercover agents at the store to cash approximately $500,000 in fraudulently obtained tax refund checks. The conversations and transactions between the customers and undercover agents at the store were audio and video recorded by the FBI. The FBI paid the thieves from official FBI funds and none of the tax refund checks were actually cashed.” They were actually videotaped walking into store and signing the checks right there on the premises.
No honor among thieves . . .
Joseph, who brought Bennett to the check cashing store made a rookie mistake and trusted the wrong person. Another defendant Lanny Fried, 34, was caught trying to illegally cash checks and then began cooperating with agents.
In the Miami Herald
U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said identity theft is “America’s fastest-growing crime,” claiming countless legitimate consumers and taxpayers as victims. John V. Gillies, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami office states, “Organized criminals are stealing $5 billion and more by fraudulently claiming tax refunds.”
José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-CID, added, “Tax-related identity theft crimes are corrupting our tax system with false information, to the detriment of innocent taxpayers and the United States Treasury. For this reason, IRS is committed, along with our law enforcement partners, to aggressively investigating all parties involved in these crimes, and making sure that no such crime goes undetected.”
If convicted, the numerous charges filed against them could carry a maximum statutory sentence of between five to 15 years in prison.