Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Michael Bennett and an FBI Sting

Here is another former-NFL-player goes wrong tax story: Michael Bennett has been convicted of wire fraud and will serve 15 months in prison.
Who is Michael Bennett? He was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the 2001 draft. He was a Pro Bowl player. He was in the NFL until 2010, although he was a backup player for much of the time. Still, he earned millions of dollars from football. May we be so lucky.
How did he get arrested? It has to do with identity theft and tax refund fraud in North Miami. South Florida is a hotbed for tax refund fraud, and the FBI was operating a tax-refund and check-cashing storefront. It sounds like the business was quite lucrative, as the FBI was charging fees ranging from 35% to 45% of the face value of the checks. People would go the store and cash fraudulently-obtained checks, presenting false identification and sometimes forging the victim’s signature on the back of the check.
There was one ring of seven people which cashed approximately $500,000 of refund checks. The FBI caught the conversations and transactions on tape. Sadly, two former NFL players were in this crowd. Perhaps that is how we get to Michael Bennett.

In walks Bennett. He is not part of the tax-refund ring, but he does want to borrow money. He wants to borrow $200,000. I can understand. Surely many of us have been returning from lunch and decided to stop in at the cash-and-dash to borrow a couple of hundred grand. Bennett presents a bank statement showing that he had buckets of bucks at UBS, and the statement is accepted as “collateral” for a loan. On April 30, 2012 Bennett picked up a $150,000 check. He was supposed to pay back $280,000 after three months.
NOTE: Yes, I wrote the amounts correctly.
There was no money in his account, of course. Bennett admitted to altering his UBS statement to make it look like he had a lot of money there. He was arrested for wire fraud. He has until January 18, 2013 to begin serving his sentence.

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