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Former University of Wisconsin athlete facing fraud charges

Football fans may be aware that a former college football and track star from the University of Wisconsin was indicted earlier this month on federal wire fraud charges. Although most wouldn't associate professional athletes with white collar crime, he's not the only NFL player to be accused by FBI agents.

Michael Bennett, who started his pro football career with the Minnesota Vikings and ended it with the Oakland Raiders, is accused of trying to get a $200,000 loan from a financial services store in Florida. The problem: The store was a fake, set up by FBI agents in an effort to trap him and others suspected of committing fraud.

A criminal complaint states that Bennett tried to get a $200,000 loan in mid-April by using a bank statement that stated he had $9 million in collateral. FBI agents contacted the bank listed on the statement, and the bank confirmed he actually had a balance of zero. Furthermore, the complaint said, the account never had any money in it. Bennett signed a loan agreement, but when he went to the financial services store April 30, he picked up a $150,000 check and was subsequently arrested.

The same financial services store targeted two other professional football players, one of whom was a teammate of Bennett's on the Oakland Raiders. Those two players are accused of forging fraudulently obtained tax-refund checks, which was the impetus for the FBI's setup of the fake store. Undercover agents posed as employees to cash the checks, charging exorbitant fees for doing so.

Some might wonder why these former pro athletes would have any need to forge checks or get a loan without collateral after earning such high salaries. Perhaps current or aspiring NFL players could take a lesson from these cases and rely on sound financial planning instead of fraud.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ex-UW star Bennett arrested on federal fraud charges," Don Walker, May 1, 2012

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