Three former professional football players are among eight individuals who have been charged in a South Florida tax refund and identity theft scheme. William Joseph of the New York Giants and Oakland Raiders; Michael Bennett of the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders; and Louis Gachelin of the NFL Europe’s Frankfurt Galaxy, are accused of cashing dozens of fraudulently obtained tax refund checks totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Federal prosecutors revealed that the FBI was operating an undercover check-cashing store in North Miami that was used by the suspects from February through April to cash approximately $500,000 in fraudulent refund checks. In reality, the money was paid out of FBI funds and no checks were actually cashed. The case is unique in that it shows just how pervasive the escalating problem of identity theft related tax crimes has become, given the status of the perpetrators as professional athletes.
This is the second instance of identity theft related tax fraud we have reported on this blog in less than two weeks and both stories have come out of South Florida. It seems that the issue is quickly becoming an epidemic in the state. According to U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer, identity theft is “America’s fastest-growing crime,” and has claimed countless legitimate consumers and taxpayers as victims. “Organized criminals are stealing $5 billion and more by fraudulently claiming tax refunds,” added John V. Gillies, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami office.
Meanwhile, the IRS is struggling to balance the burgeoning problem of identity theft with the increasing demands from Congress that the Service speed up the pace of electronic refunds. As the IRS scrambles to implement the proper safeguards, it will likely be the taxpayers that feel the administrative burden of the changes. If you are a taxpayer who has had difficulty collecting your refund from the IRS, consider consulting with an experienced tax attorney who may be help you to fix the problem.