This article was originally published on by Ed Palattella and Madeleine O’Neill on November 20, 2018

An Erie youth football coach was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison on Monday for running a scam in which he prepared 1,015 federal tax returns for clients who had little or no income between 2010 and 2012.

The clients of the defendant, Roderick M. Jones, paid him $1,000 each to prepare the returns, and each client got a refund of $4,000 to $5,000, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

In asking for leniency, Jones, 54, of the 800 block of Brown Avenue, cited his role as a youth football coach — he is the commissioner of the Metro 21 Youth Football League, according to court records — and his relationship with former NFL star and Erie native Bob Sanders, his brother-in-law.

Sanders, who was not in court, helped launch the Metro 21 league earlier this year. Before the founding of the league, Jones had coached youth football in Erie for years, including at camps with Sanders.

“I’ve done way more good than I’ve done bad,” Jones told the judge. “I have helped young men all throughout this city.”

Jones’ strategy appears to have worked.

The sentence of a year and a day, which Senior U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone imposed in federal court in Erie, represented a significant downward departure from the sentence that Jones was facing under the recommended federal sentencing guidelines. The guidelines called for him to get a minimum of three years and 10 months to a maximum of four years and nine months in prison.

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