Ronald Jack Mix, a lawyer and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Kansas City to tax fraud in a case involving worker’s compensation claims he filed for former athletes.
Mix, 78, a California resident who practices law in the San Diego area, illegally paid a non-lawyer for referrals on clients, according to federal prosecutors.
Instead of paying the person directly, Mix donated about $155,000 over three years to a charity operated by that person, prosecutors said. Then Mix claimed those payments on his tax returns as charitable deductions.
He pleaded guilty Monday to a felony charge of making false statements in a tax return.
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As part of Monday’s plea agreement, Mix agreed to pay $49,543 in restitution to the IRS.
The case is being prosecuted in Kansas City because some of the clients referred to Mix lived in the Western District of Missouri. None of their names was released.
Mix faces up to three years in prison. He will be sentenced later.
“It’s important to point out that Ron thought this was a legitimate charity,” said Jean Paul Bradshaw, one of the lawyers representing Mix.
Many of the people Mix represented were older athletes who didn’t make huge salaries during their playing careers, Bradshaw said after the plea hearing.
Mix helped them obtain worker’s compensation settlements to help them support themselves.
According to the plea agreement, “The individuals referred were in need of the services provided by Mix, he was well-qualified to perform these services, and he properly performed the services to the individuals who were referred.”
Many former athletes filed claims in California even if they didn’t play for California-based teams. California law allowed them to file claims if they played road games in the state.
Mix filed about 300 such cases in the final month before the law changed in late 2013, according to news reports at the time.
During Monday’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Greg Kays, U.S. Department of Justice attorney Ryan Raybould read details of the case contained in court documents.
According to the documents, Mix, doing business as the Law Offices of Ron Mix, and a person identified as “Individual F” made an arrangement for Mix to pay for referrals of potential clients.
The plea involves payments ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 made from October 2010 to December 2013.
Individual F operated The Sixth Man Foundation, which did business as the charity Project Contact Africa, according to the documents.
According to court documents, Individual F falsely told Mix that the donations would be spent on “alleviating suffering in Africa.”
However, Individual F used the bulk of the donations “for his own personal enjoyment and to fund his lifestyle,” according to the plea agreement.
Although Mix believed he was donating to a legitimate charity, the payments were in fact a “quid pro quo” for the client referrals, Raybould said in court Monday.
Mix then claimed the payments as charitable donations on his federal income tax returns.
No charges have been filed against Individual F.
He and his charity also are mentioned in a previously prosecuted federal case in Kansas City involving the sale of pirated and counterfeit computer software.
According to court documents filed in that case, Individual F allegedly allowed people to sell the pirated software on the charity’s website to avoid fees that would have to be paid to eBay and other online sites.
Six people from around the country, including a Kansas City man, have been prosecuted in that software case, but again, no charges have been filed against Individual F.
Mix was an All-America tackle at the University of Southern California and spent most of his 11-year professional career as an offensive lineman with the Los Angeles and San Diego Chargers in the American Football League. He played one season with the Oakland Raiders after the AFL and NFL merger.
A perennial all-star, he was named to the AFL’s all-time team and voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
While still playing, Mix passed the California Bar and was dubbed the “Intellectual Assassin.”