FBI agents faked out a couple of ex-NFL football players and a former local high school star by setting up a check-cashing store “front” in North Miami, where the players are accused of cashing dozens of fraudulently obtained tax-refund checks and seeking a loan — all totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The undercover operation, designed to block an alleged identity-theft and tax-refund scheme, sacked a pair of National Football League veterans and a Miami Jackson High graduate:
• William Joseph, a University of Miami defensive tackle who was drafted in the first round by the New York Giants in 2003 and last played with the Oakland Raiders in 2010.
• Michael Bennett, a University of Wisconsin running back who also was drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Vikings in 2001 and finished his career with the Raiders in 2011.
• Louis Gachelin, a Miami Jackson High and Syracuse University defensive lineman who signed as a free agent with the New England Patriots in 2004. Gachelin never made the final roster.
Authorities say the latest tax-related fraud case, while unique because of the ex-NFL defendants, is yet another example of the escalating number of reported identity-theft crimes in South Florida and nationwide.