Two ex-NFL football players and a former high school football star were arrested in an undercover operation set up by FBI agents Monday for allegedly cashing dozens of fraudulently obtained tax-refund checks and seeking a loan, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
FBI agents apparently set up a check-cashing store “front” in Miami as a response to the escalating number of reported identity-theft crimes in South Florida and nationwide. The FBI claims the bust was designed to prevent an alleged identify-theft and tax-refund scheme.
The men arrested include: William Joseph who was drafted in the first round by the New York Giants in 2003 and last played with the Oakland Raiders in 2010, Michael Bennet who also was drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Vikings in 2001 and finished his career with the Raiders in 2011 and Louis Gachelin, a Miami Jackson High and Syracuse University defensive lineman who signed as a free agent with the New England Patriots in 2004, but failed to make the final roster.
The former football players, Joseph, 32, of Miramar, Gachelin, 31, of Miramar, and Bennett, 33, of Tampa were granted bonds Tuesday. Arraignments are apparently scheduled for May 15.
The sting operation yielded five other arrests Monday as well.
Joseph, Gachelin and those five defendants were charged with cashing a total of about $500,000
in fraudulently obtained tax-refund checks, forging signatures on the checks and unlawfully using identification documents such as a driver’s license.
As part of the undercover sting, the FBI apparently charged 35 percent to 45 percent in fees to cash their checks with the bureau’s own funds.
Bennet allegedly tried to obtain a $200,000 loan on April 18 from the check-cashing store front using a UBS financial statement falsely showing that he had $9 million in collateral for the loan. He was charged with wire fraud.
The FBI claims fraudulently obtained tax refunds are costing the government $5 billion or more.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, people filing false tax returns have abused a hole in the IRS electronic filing system.
It appears that the IRS does not actually match tax returns to the W-2 income forms that employers file until several months after the filing season ends on April 15. Employers file returns at the end of February or early March, but the agency apparently does not match them up with employees’ incomes reported on 1040 forms until sometime in June.
According to the GAO, the number of identity theft-related fraud incidents on tax returns reached 248,000 in 2010, which is around five times more than in 2008.
Federal investigations into white collar or financial crimes can arise out of nowhere. In fact, these investigations can intensify quite rapidly, sometimes even before you are ever approached by investigators. It is critical to consult with a criminal defense lawyer if you have any reason to believe that you are under investigation for a financial crime. Often there are signs that can clue you into whether or not an investigation is in progress, including behavior changes in those around you, unusual questions or suspicious activities.
White collar crimes can include:
• Tax Crimes
• Antitrust Crimes
Financial crimes require a strong defense, and in order to be effective you must retain a trial attorney prepared to practice in state and federal court. The Florida White Collar Crime Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton understand how a strong defense against financial crimes is built. We know how to identify loophole’s in the prosecutor’s case and leverage them to work in your favor.
It is important to realize that when you are charged with a crime, your future depends on early representation. Unfortunately, early mistakes cannot be undone and the prosecution will use any information they can against you.
If you are under criminal investigation, have been arrested or been charged with a crime in Florida, contact the Florida White Collar Crime Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton online or dial us statewide and toll-free at 1-866-608-5LAW (5529).