In a news report out yesterday, two former NFL first-round draft picks along with six others were arrested Monday on charges of being involved in a tax refund fraud scheme. Tax refund fraud is the hottest financial crime in South Florida right now and has been sweeping the country at record numbers this past tax season. Organized crime rings have pilfered over $5 billion just in fraudulent tax refunds. This type of fraud is becoming an epidemic for the U.S. government.

Federal prosecutors have said that during the three-month undercover operation in South Florida, people entered the FBI-run business to cash around $500,000 in fraudulently obtained tax refund checks. William Joseph, a former NFL star, cashed fraudulently obtained tax refund checks at the FBI-run store, totaling $17,400 wherein he agreed to take a 65 percent cut, allowing the undercover FBI agent to keep the rest. His former teammate, Michael Bennett, was also arrested on one count of wire fraud for providing false bank statements in order to obtain a loan.

An acquaintance of Joseph’s, Lanny Fried, was also involved in the scheme and tipped off agents when he was driven by Joseph to a meeting with an FBI informant where Fried gave 11 fraudulently obtained tax refund checks totaling $56,000 along with social security cards and drivers’ licenses matching the names on the checks. Fried told authorities that the checks came from Joseph.

Joseph faces counts of theft of government money, forgery of U.S. Treasury checks, and possessing five or more identification documents with unlawful intent. The charges could carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Linda Webb AKA The Fraud Dog, leading fraud expert, says that the fraudster is not always who you expect. Much like the Bernie Madoff fraud, people considered to be wealthy are not exempt from being a fraudster. In addition, just because someone is famous doesn’t mean they won’t prey on others for their own benefit. Fraud can take on many forms and involve many different types of people which is why it becomes so difficult to find and prosecute. Webb commends the FBI for their undercover operation and investigation into tax refund fraud throughout the South Florida area.

To report potentially fraudulent activity, contact Linda Webb aka The Fraud Dog, leading fraud expert at 1-855-FRAUD-DOG.

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