A federal grand jury charged 10 former National Football League players—including former Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis—with scamming the league’s health-care benefit plan for retirees out of $3.4 million.
The former professional football players have been charged in an indictment filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky with wire fraud and health-care fraud for allegedly submitting “false and fraudulent claims for reimbursement for expensive medical equipment” that they never purchased.
Prosecutors allege the 10 men made over $3.9 million in false and fraudulent claims, with the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan paying out over $3.4 million on those claims.
“Ten former NFL players allegedly committed a brazen, multimillion-dollar fraud on a health-care plan meant to help their former teammates and other retired players pay legitimate, out-of-pocket medical expenses,” Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said in a statement. “Today’s indictments underscore that whoever you are, if you loot health-care programs to line your own pockets, you will be held accountable by the Department of Justice.”
Along with Portis, the former NFL players involved in the alleged scheme include: former Washington Redskins linebacker Robert McCune, 40; John Eubanks, a former cornerback for the Washington team; former San Diego Chargers wide-receiver Tamarick Vanover; former Jacksonville Jaguars safety Ceandris Brown; former Giants safety James Butler; former Seattle Seahawks defensive back Etric Pruitt; and Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Frederick Bennett.
The government said Thursday it also has filed notice to charge former NFL wide receivers Joe Horn, 47, and Donald Caldwell, 40, with conspiracy to commit health-care fraud.
According to the federal indictments filed in Kentucky, the players allegedly submitted false claims to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan for reimbursement between June 2017 and December 2018 for several bogus items. The plan, which was established in 2006, provides tax-free reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical care expenses not covered by insurance for former players, their wives, and any dependents.
The items—which cost between $40,000 and $50,000 a piece—included hyperbaric chambers, cryotherapy machines, ultrasound machines, and “even electromagnetic therapy devices used on horses,” the indictment states. To hide their fraudulent scheme, the players allegedly “fabricated prescription purportedly signed by health care providers” and “fabricated invoices from medical equipment companies.”
“The defendants are alleged to have developed and executed a fraudulent scheme to undermine a health care benefit plan established by the NFL—one established to help their former teammates and colleagues pay for legitimate medical expenses,” U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr. said on Thursday.
Prosecutors allege some of the players were “ringleaders” in the scheme, recruiting former footballers by offering to submit false claims in exchange for up to $10,000 in “kickbacks and bribes,” according to the indictments.
After the claims were submitted, McCune and Buckhalter “allegedly called the telephone number” provided by the plan and “impersonated certain other players to check on the status of the false and fraudulent claims,” federal prosecutors allege.
The scheme allegedly stopped in 2018 after the players’ insurer, Cigna, became suspicious of some of the high-priced claims and informed federal authorities. The charges come after a year-long investigation into the 10 players.
“This investigation serves as an illustration of the rampant and deliberate scams against health care plans occurring daily throughout the country,” FBI Special Agent in Charge George Piro said.
Authorities said four players have already been arrested, and six others are expected to surrender as part of an agreement.
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