Ex-NFL players William Joseph, Michael Bennett headed to prison

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William Joseph, a former NFL defensive tackle who was the Giants’ first-round draft pick in 2003, has agreed to plead guilty to tax fraud charges that will send him to prison for at least two years. Joseph’s plea comes three weeks after former Vikings first-round draft pick Michael Bennett pleaded guilty to different charges in the same scheme.

Joseph’s attorney, Roderick Vereen, told the Miami Herald that Joseph will plead guilty to theft of government money and aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence.

“He recognizes the mistake he made, and he is going to take responsibility for his actions and do what he can to repair his good name,” Vereen said.

Joseph and Bennett, who met as teammates on the Raiders, as well as former Patriots practice squad player Louis Gachelin, were among those arrested by the FBI this year and charged with running an identity theft and tax fraud scheme. The ex-NFL players were accused of filing false tax returns under other people’s names, then stealing those people’s identities to take their tax refunds.

Bennett pleaded guilty to wire fraud, a charge that could lead to up to 20 years in prison, although prosecutors agreed to seek a sentence on the lower end of the sentencing guidelines. Gachelin pleaded guilty to theft of government money and aggravated ID theft in July.

Although this case has generated more attention than similar cases because the defendants played in the NFL, the crime is common: The IRS says identity theft was involved in about 940,000 tax returns with refunds last year, totaling $6.5 billion.