Laying Low


When trying to get away with a crime, it is pretty important to lay low so as not to raise anyone’s suspicions. A story posted on tells about one college student’s unusual behavior that tipped off authorities to a tax refund fraud scheme that netted $400,000. (The college football player was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a stocking cap on a warm day, while seen making multiple trips to an ATM machine.)

The article states that an investigation into the matter found that a total of 11 people were involved in a scheme to defraud the Internal Revenue System (IRS) of $1.1 million. (Six were university football players, one was the girlfriend of the mastermind and another one had been previously impeached as the university’s student government president because of allegations relating to misused funds.)

According to the story, the entire scam was coordinated through text messages by the mastermind who recruited college student to carry out the crime. The electronic messages contained pertinent information for filing the false returns. The accomplices were ordered to make deposits to the mastermind’s bank account and instructed to check addresses for incoming tax refunds. (The co-conspirator seen making multiple trips to the ATM was using a preloaded debit card to withdraw IRS-issued tax refunds.) The mastermind’s girlfriend, who was employed by an insurance company, supplied her boyfriend with more than 30 Social Security numbers. Consequently, 12 tax returns were filed claiming $110,000 in bogus refunds. (Luckily, all but one of the refunds was prevented.)

What is interesting in this case is that none of the students involved raised any suspicions, especially the football players who were closely involved with school athletic officials. The university athletic director even claimed that none of the players involved in the crime had fancy clothes, expensive jewelry or nice cars. (Hmmm, I wonder where the money went.)

All 11 involved in the scam pleaded guilty for their part in the tax fraud scheme. The 23-year old ringleader and one co-conspirator are scheduled to be sentenced. The other nine perpetrators received prison sentences ranging from two to more than five years, while all but three will pay $422,000 in joint restitution.

Interestingly enough, the story states that the mastermind really wants to become a high school football coach so he can help children to further their education. (Does he want to educate them on how to run another fraud scheme or show them how to play football?) In the end, criminals always make a mistake and end up paying in the end. (Unfortunately, the mastermind of this scheme ended up corrupting the minds of college students who now have an uncertain future.)

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”College Athletes Ran Tax-refund Fraud Scheme, Netted $400G,” posted on on January 11, 2015.

He wore a hoodie and a stocking cap as he made multiple trips to an ATM on a warm day in April 2012, cutting a suspicious enough figure that a concerned citizen tipped off police in the college town. Using surveillance video, they discovered a cornerback for the University of South Dakota’s football team was using a preloaded debit card that had been issued for a tax refund.

The card, however, did not belong to Alphonso “Rico” Valdez. A scheme to defraud the IRS of $1.1 million began to unravel. After a months-long investigation, authorities busted up the fraud ring, which netted about $400,000 over nearly a year.

Read More

Previous articleToo Much Time on Their Hands
Next articleWhat Goes On Behind Closed Doors
Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.