Friday, April 13, 2012

If It Was Good Enough for Al Capone...

Welcome to the conclusion of our two-part mini-series on the impact of taxes on NFL players.  Today, we take a look at some former NFL stars that have had some—shall we say—issues with handing over their hard-earned money to the government.  Some have even tried to use the system to con money out of the government.  Two of these names you’re sure to recognize; others you may be hearing for the first time.  Either way, they all have something in common:  each found out that you can run, but you can’t hide from the tax man.

The Juice at his sentencing in 2008
O.J. Simpson:  The former NFL running back (and murder defendant) allegedly owes the State of California $1.44 million in taxes; a tax lien was filed in his case in September 1999.  Simpson’s state of residence is now Florida, though he currently resides in the Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada.  In 2008 he stood trial and was found guilty for robbery charges stemming from an incident in which he took sports memorabilia at gunpoint from a man in Las Vegas hotel.

Lawrence Taylor:  The Hall of Fame linebacker, who was featured in Naptime Huddle’s “Stars and Legends” series, has had his fair share of financial troubles.  He lost a significant amount of money as a victim of a scheme involving the short sale of stock in a company he started at the end of his NFL career.  His troubles didn’t end there, however.  He pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return for 1990 and in 2000 was sentenced to three months of house arrest, five years of probation and 500 hours of community service.  Of course, you may also be aware that his legal troubles have continued, as in 2011 he pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct and patronizing an underage prostitute.  He is currently serving a sentence of six years’ probation.

Jeffrey L. Walker:  Jeffrey Walker was an offensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints over a six-year period in the late 1980s.  In October 2011, he pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and tax evasion; he admitted two charges and ten others were dismissed.  His crime?  He bilked investors in four states of at least $2.2 million dollars.  He told investors they were buying shares in a resort project in China.  Instead, he spent the money on himself, buying luxury cars and recreational vehicles.  He also made false statements in his federal tax returns from 2004 to 2006.  Walker’s sentencing has been delayed to give prosecutors time to identify and notify possible victims.

"Yo, Dawg! Thanks for letting me file your tax return!"
Freddie L. Mitchell, Jr.:  The former first-round pick wide receiver had a fairly lack-luster NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles on the field.  Off the field, he made a habit of insulting opponents and making his discontent over his limited role on the team public.  He only lasted four years in the NFL, and his post-football career hasn’t panned out too well, either.  In 2008, he bought a barbecue restaurant in his home town of Lakeland, Florida, but it closed in 2009.  Mitchell turned himself in to authorities last month under an indictment for federal tax fraud charges.  He is accused, along with two partners, of recruiting professional athletes to hire them to file their returns; they would then file phony returns in the athletes’ names claiming financial losses for businesses that didn’t exist.  Nice way to make friends, huh?

Darick Holmes:  Darick Holmes is a former running back who played for the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts in the late 1990s.  After his retirement, he bounced around from job to job, never really finding his calling.  In August 2010, Holmes was sentenced to three years’ probation, including one year of house arrest (a lenient sentence compared to the recommended one year prison term), after pleading guilty to 15 counts of felony tax fraud.  He had teamed up with another man in Buffalo to teach people how to defraud the Earned Income Credit program, which is intended to be tax relief for the poor.  The pair got portions of the refunds their “clients” received from the government.  Darick’s brushes with crime haven’t been limited to fraud, though.  In February 2009, he was robbed and shot several times while he was delivering money for a friend’s marijuana buy.  His light sentence for the tax fraud was due in large part to the testimony the judge heard about Holmes’ commitment to mentoring at-risk youth, and guiding them away from gang membership.

So, as you get ready to file your tax returns on Monday, be sure to keep these cautionary tales in mind, lest you be tempted to find a way around the tax man…

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