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USD Athletes Face Tax Fraud Charges

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Nine people from South Dakota and Florida, are facing charges after federal prosecutors say they filed fake tax returns. Some of those named in court papers are former USD athletes.

A handful of the suspects were in Federal court Thursday in Tampa.  The charges were filed in the United States Federal court on November sixth and prosecutors said the suspects, quite a few who lived in South Dakota, stole people's personal information to file fake tax returns. 

Prosecutors in Tampa have named Alphonso "Rico" Valdez, a former U-S-D football player the leader of a tax fraud scheme, linking USD students and others in Florida. 

Along with Valdez, eight other people are faced with some serious charges filed by United States Attorney, Brendan Johnson. 

These charges include conspiracy to commit fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Court documents said the alleged fraud took place in South Dakota and other unknown places from June 2011 to May 2012. 

Tampa prosecutors said Valdez convinced the other suspects to steal people's personal information needed to file fake tax returns to then claim false income tax refunds. 

Some of these suspects include Christopher Jamel Lundy, who is a 21-years-old USD Sophomore who plays Defensive Back for the Coyotes.

Before USD, Lundy played for Tampa Catholic High School and his former coach said he's shocked about the news. 

"I hope that the allegations aren't true, whatever they are. I feel for his family and hopefully Chris learns from this if he actually was involved in it," said Henriquez.  

Then there's Jeremy Blount, a former Coyotes wide receiver who signed to play pro ball in Canada.

Blount's stepfather was at the Federal court hearing Thursday in Tampa and defended his stepson.

"I don't know how his name came up in none of this, but like I said, I think this is a big misunderstanding," said Thompson. 

Terry Daron Liggins, also a suspect is a former USD track and field athlete and Marquis Butler, who played for the Coyotes back in 2008. 

They're accused of stealing people's identification such as their names, birth dates and social security numbers and then use that information to file fake tax returns.

They also are faced with charges for transferring, possessing and using the personal information without lawful authority. 

Valdez raised a red flag for investigators during a suspicious ATM transaction in South Dakota, where he allegedly tried to hide underneath a hat and sunglasses. 

If convicted, these nine people could face a punishment of up to a decade behind bars. 

According to authorities this tax fraud ring got away with more than half a million dollars from the United States Government.
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