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Six Current, Former USD Athletes Charged

November 16, 2012, 5:35 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Six Current, Former USD Athletes Charged

On the eve of the University of South Dakota's biggest football game of the year, several current and former players have been charged in a federal tax fraud case.

One of the players, 20-year-old Chris Lundy, is still on the team. School officials confirm Lundy will not play Saturday against in-state rival South Dakota State.

Authorities say a total of nine people used stolen identities to file bogus tax returns. At least six of them have ties to USD and may have been running the scam out of a dorm room in Vermillion.

The South Dakota U.S. Attorney's Office says the IRS paid the nine defendants about a half million dollars in fraudulent tax returns before investigators broke it up.

Many of them are originally from Tampa, Florida, and appeared in court on the charges there Thursday.

Five of the men listed in the indictment have played on the USD football team in the past two years and one of them is the former student government association president.

Last season, Jeremy Blount was catching touchdowns for the University of South Dakota when federal investigators say he was involved in the conspiracy to steal Social Security numbers and birthdates and file phony tax returns.

Marquis Butler was also on the team last year and is charged in a federal indictment that was unsealed Friday.

Teammate Alphonso Rico Valdez was also on USD's football team last season. According to Tampa Bay Online, the feds allege Valdez recruited students at the University of South Dakota and in Tampa to gather names, addresses and use that information to file fraudulent tax returns.

Tampa Bay Online also says the scam came to light when Valdez used preloaded debit cards to withdraw $900 in cash from an ATM in South Dakota.

KELOLAND News interviewed the Vermillion Police Chief back in May when they spotted a suspicious subject at a local ATM that led them to a high-tech organized crime network that was being run out of a University of South Dakota dorm room.

"They can report that you made $200,000 and are due back $7,000 back and then spend the money before anyone knows it's all a lie," Vermillion Police Chief Matt Betzen said in May of 2012.

Christopher Frierson is also on the indictment. He was on the football team earlier this year, but left the team for violating team rules unrelated to the federal charges.

Finally, Terry Liggins is listed in the federal charges. He is a 2008 USD graduate who was at one time the President of the Student Government Association, but was removed from office for misusing funds.

Now all the men face more serious charges that could send them to prison for at least ten years.

The three people who have also been charged who don't have any connections to USD are 21-year-old Charlie Frank Adams from Tampa and 23-year-old Raunta Ellison, also from Tampa, who has not been arrested yet.

Twenty-two-year-old Melissa Dinataly is also charged and she appeared in court in Tampa, Florida, Thursday.

This ultimately is a case that will be prosecuted in South Dakota so all of the defendants will have to appear in South Dakota federal court as well.

That is scheduled for December 10.

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