Law360, New York (December 7, 2015, 3:38 PM ET) — Former NFL player and police officer Titus Dixon was vindicated on Saturday when a Florida federal jury found him not guilty of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in a tax fraud scheme.
Dixon, who played professional football for the New York Jets and Detroit Lions, among other teams, for 12 years, had been implicated in a plot with his nieces to swindle about $880,000 in tax refunds by filing more than 200 bogus tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service, according to his attorney, Richard Kibbey.
But even though federal courts have a higher than 90 percent conviction rate, Dixon beat the odds and sobbed with relief when the not-guilty verdicts on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, theft of government funds and aggravated identity theft were read out around 8 p.m. at the end of a week-long trial — the second in the case after the first one concluded with a hung jury in July, Kibbey said.
“It was a tremendously gratifying feeling … because of the pressure on everybody,” Kibbey said. “We’ve been working on this case since 2012. It’s been countless hours getting it ready and then trying it twice. It was a great relief knowing that he is out of his ordeal and has triumphed over falsehood.”
Dixon was indicted in September 2014, according to court records, and was promptly terminated from his job as deputy sheriff with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office following his arrest, as per the police department’s policy when an officer is arrested, Kibbey said.
An IRS investigation linked five names out of 216 on fraudulent tax returns to people Dixon had stopped or arrested when he was a road patrol officer. According to Kibbey, these are names Dixon’s two nieces, who have pled guilty to the same charges, had access to whenever Dixon took his patrol car and the computer in it home.
The government had tried to argue that Dixon had passed on confidential information about individuals he encountered during work to his nieces who were often at his home, and that money his nieces gave him was payoff from the scheme, according to Kibbey.
But Kibbey said that the password protections on officers’ computers, which were mandated to be taken out of cruisers when the vehicles were not in use, were not as strong five years ago as they are now, and money they gave him was money they already owed him.
Dixon was arrested along with his nieces, one of their husbands and a fifth non-relative. The other four individuals, some of whom testified against Dixon, have all pled guilty to the same charges that Dixon was indicted on, and one of the nieces is already serving a 12-year sentence for her role in the crimes, while her husband is serving a six-year sentence, Kibbey said.
Dixon said in a statement that he is grateful to God for having been acquitted.
“Never in a million years did I imagine my life would have been destroyed and falsely accused by the justice system I have always believed in,” he said.
A representative for the IRS could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The government is represented by Jason R. Coody and James Michael Ustynoski of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Dixon is represented by Richard Dean Kibbey of Kibbey Wagner Law Offices and Jason Matthew Wandner.
The case is USA v. Titus Lee Dixon, case number 4:14-cr-00058, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee Division.
–Editing by Kelly Duncan.