It can be arguably said that racial profiling and stereotypes led to the downfall of six football players at the University of South Dakota. The players had concocted a complex scheme to defraud the IRS of $1.1 million in fraudulent tax refunds. Before the group was stopped, it had succeeded in netting thousands in refunds.
The fraud ring came under suspicion because the leader, Alphonso “Rico” Valdez was wearing a hoodie and stocking cap. According to law enforcement, Valdez was making frequent trips to an ATM in a single day and a concerned citizen felt he looked suspicious. Police reviewed surveillance footage, and it was found that Valdez was using preloaded debit cards to withdraw the stolen cash from the ATM. The ring was active from June 2011 and May 2012 during which as much as $400,000 was stolen.
However, according to authorities, the students arrested never purchased anything outrageous, like jewelry, cars or designer fashions. The USD athletic director David Herbster stated, “I’m not even sure that any of them had a car while they were here, and if they did, it probably wasn’t a nice one…They didn’t exhibit anything that you would be overly suspicious of as far as somehow coming into an excess amount of money. There were no really nice cars, there was not a lot of fancy clothes, fancy jewelry things like that that would lead you to believe, ‘How did you get that?'”
The scheme recruited fellow students, girlfriends and family members. A total of 11 people were ultimately arrested and charged. All 11 have pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges and received prison times ranging from two to more than five years. All but three were ordered to pay $422,000 in joint restitution.