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Bill Bene, counterfeit karaoke artist: Former Dodgers top pick faces the music

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Bill Bene went from draft bust to counterfeit karaoke bust.

Back in 1988 when the Los Angeles Dodgers picked Bill Bene in the first round, Major League Baseball was primed, improbably, to have three stars with an oddly similar name: Bene, Billy Bean and Billy Beane. A three-be(a)n(e) salad, if you will.

True stardom in baseball never came for any of them, but at least two of the Bills went on to have success in their lives. The other? Not so much. Bene reportedly has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges that he operated a counterfeit karaoke business and failed to pay taxes on the income he earned.

Counterfeit karaoke is a thing? Sounds like something the Yakuza might dabble in. Is it like what happens when you get a new recording of the music on what you thought was a classic song? I hate when that happens on iTunes with Bachman-Turner Overdrive and such. Original recordings by the original artists, only, please!

Anyway, here's the gist via LAist:

[Bene] sold counterfeit karaoke machines between 2006 and 2010, and did not report over $600,000 in sales to the Internal Revenue Service, according to City News Service. As part of his scheme, Bene illegally copied and sold karaoke songs on hard drives containing about 122,000 titles each, say prosecutors.

He could be spending the next eight years of his life in prison, plus he'll have to pay a hefty fine. One question: Will they send him to do his time at Sing Sing?

Billy Beane, of course, became a successful general manager with the Oakland Athletics. (Perhaps you know him better as the guy played by Brad Pitt in "Moneyball.") Billy Bean, to his credit, famously came out of the closet to become an author and public speaker. He's a terrific role model for gay athletes, or anyone in the LGBT community looking for an advocate.

But without the secondary skill set, Bene apparently became a professional charlatan. I can remember talking with GM Beane about Bene during our Answer Man session a year ago:

DB: A few years after you turned pro, the Dodgers drafted a guy named Bill Bene, who spelled his name like Andy Benes, without the S. So, there was a Billy Beane, a Billy Bean and a Bill Bene. What the heck?

Beane: Yeah, I remember him as well. In fact, somebody sent me his baseball card just about three days ago to sign.

DB: You're kidding?

Beane: Yeah, he did. I looked on the back of the card and it was an '89 or '88 card. I think he was out of Cal St. L.A., or something.

DB: Did you sign it, "Wrong guy, Billy Beane"?

Beane: No, no, I didn't sign it.

DB: It would have been funny.

Beane: Well, if it had been your card, it wouldn't have been so funny [laughs].

I wonder if Bene ever got cards intended for Billy Bean and Billy Beane. If he did, how much do you want to bet that he signed those? Further, did he write back and demand money from the autograph hound? Or at least did he ask what their favorite song was?

Bene (which is pronounced "B'nay," I think) finished his nine-season minor-league career with a 5.45 ERA for three organizations. If there's a prison ball team, or prison karaoke, he's welcome to try his hand or larynx in either of those leagues.

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