Several former NFL and college football players have been charged in federal court with crimes such as tax fraud and aggravated identity theft. Former University of Miami, New York Giant's and Oakland Raider's defensive tackle, William Joseph, pled guilty last Friday to tax related fraud and identity theft charges. Another former NFL player, Michael Bennett, and Louis Gachelin, former Miami Jackson High School and Syracuse University player, were also charged along with Joseph. All three defendants were accused of cashing a large number of fraudulently obtained tax refund checks. One of the defendants is also accused of trying to obtain a loan with falsified collateral. All three defendants entered guilty pleas with the assistance of their Miami criminal lawyers.
Joseph entered a guilty plea to theft of government money and aggravated identity theft. Joseph's sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 9, 2012. Joseph is facing a minimum two year prison sentence for the charge of aggravated identity theft. The judge imposing the penalties may sentence Joseph to consecutive time. The charge of theft will carry a sentence largely dependent on the amount of loss suffered by the federal government. Pursuant to federal statutes, the 2 year sentence can be stacked or run consecutively to the sentence imposed for the theft. Bennett, a former first round draft pick, entered a guilty plea to the charge of wire fraud. Gachelin plead guilty to the same offenses as Joseph and is looking at roughly the same sentence.
Back in May, the former football players were charged along with five other individuals with cashing $500,000 in stolen tax return checks. The defendants, either in whole or in part, forged the signatures of the individuals who actually had the right to the checks. Bennett tried to obtain a $200,000 loan using a fake bank statement showing that he had $9 million in collateral. The FBI got wind of the scheme to defraud and set up a check cashing store in an effort to catch these individuals. The sting operation led to the arrest of everyone involved. In a side note, the FBI was charging 35-40% for each check that was cashed.
Federal authorities claim that the number of identity theft related crimes are escalating in Florida and across the United States. The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida claims that identity theft is "America's fastest growing crime." Thousands of victims have been reported in the Miami and Tampa areas. According to the feds, the problem is being created as a result of electronic filing. The Internal Revenue Service is sending out checks prior to checking the W-2 income forms which do not arrive in their offices until after the tax filing season ends. By the time the IRS discovers the fraud, the checks have already been sent out and deposited or cashed. The number of identity theft and fraud related incidents amounted to 248,000 in 2010. According to the Department of the Treasury, 940,000 fraudulent tax returns amounting to $6.5 million have been filed.
NFL Veteran Who Played at UM Pleads Guilty to Tax-Related Fraud Charges in Miami, Palm Beach Post.com, August 31, 2012.