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Tax Dodger: Ex-LA Pitcher OKs Plea Bargain In Counterfeit Karaoke Scheme

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Photo of Bill Bene baseball card from 1989

Photo of Bill Bene baseball card from 1989

Claudia Peschiutta Claudia Peschiutta
Claudia Peschiutta is a general-assignment reporter at KNX 1070...
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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A former pitching prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers has agreed to plead guilty to federal tax evasion charges after he illegally copied and sold thousands of karaoke tunes.

KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta reports now William S. Bene of Pasadena faces a maximum sentence of 8 years behind bars.

Bene, 44, of Pasadena signed an agreement with federal prosecutors on Thursday to plead guilty to two counts charging him with criminal copyright infringement and filing a false tax return, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

According to the agreement, Bene sold illegal karaoke jukeboxes between 2006 and 2010 and did not report more than $600,000 in sales to the Internal Revenue Service.

Prosecutors said Bene also acknowledged illegally copying and distributing karaoke songs on hard drives containing nearly 122,000 titles each.

But despite the inventory of titles, Bene said he did not inform the IRS about the business and even asked for back tax relief in 2008 after claiming he could not afford to pay.

“The margins on intellectual property crimes can be big,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Wes Shue. “It doesn’t cost him anything to make a digital copy of the music.”

Bene’s attorney Mark Hathaway said his client originally became involved in the karaoke business strictly for entertainment purposes.

“It was a karaoke hobby business that simply grew out of control,” Hathaway said. “He’s stepped up to the plate and accepted responsibility for his mistakes.”

The charges carry a maximum possible sentence of eight years behind bars, a fine of $250,000 or two times the gross gain or gross loss, restitution payments and three years of supervised release, according to prosecutors.

A date for the guilty plea to be heard is expected to be set April 30.

The former Cal State Los Angeles alum was the fifth overall pick by the Dodgers in the 1988 amateur draft, but never played in a game for any major league team and is widely considered one of the biggest draft flops in the history of pro sports.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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