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Serious punishment could be in store for the pranksters who set up a telephone call in March between then-Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix and another NFL general manager, recorded it and sold it to the sports website Deadspin.

Two 20-year-olds from Plymouth, Mass. – Joshua Barber and Nicholas Kaiser – face federal charges that carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $500,000 fine, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. announced Wednesday.

Barber and Kaiser have been ordered to appear at 10 a.m. Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder in Buffalo to answer charges of intentionally intercepting a wire communication and making a telephone call without disclosing their identity with the intent to annoy or harass the person at the called number.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael DiGiacomo, who is handling the case, said Barber allegedly phoned Nix’s office on March 8 claiming to be Mark Dominik, general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Nix answered the phone, found no one on the line and had his office call back.

In the meantime, DiGiacomo said, Barber called Dominik’s office claiming to be Nix.

When Nix’s office hit the redial button and called back to Barber’s phone, thinking it was Dominik’s office, Barber connected him with Dominik and secretly recorded their six-minute conversation off the phone’s speaker, using a second cellphone.

Prosecutors said Barber and Kaiser then sold the unauthorized recording to Deadspin, which posted it on March 12, the day that the Bills released quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick after he refused to accept a pay cut.

The conversation provided hints of Fitzpatrick’s fate.

“We’re still struggling here with our quarterback,” Nix said to the man he thought was Dominik.

“I say struggling. We’re not really struggling. He’s going to have to do something, or we’ll have to,”

Nix added, “You can’t afford to pay that kind of money to a guy that’s fighting for probably a backup job.”

Nix announced May 13 that he would leave the Bills GM post after 3½ years in that position and take an advisory role as special assistant.

email: danderson@buffnews.com