A number of former NFL greats have been caught up in a fraud scandal that could cost them more than just economic penalties. A scheme has been uncovered that was designed to defraud the NFL’s health care program for retired players, and, so far, ten players have been found to have participated in the activity. More names could follow.
Which Former NFL Greats Are Charged With Fraud?
The list includes Clinton Portis, Carlos Rogers, Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter and Eric Pruitt. All of these former NFL stars are being charged with fraud, and two more, Reche Caldwell and Joe Horn, are currently looking at conspiracy to commit health care fraud.
It appears that over $3.9 million in fraudulent claims were made, between June 2017 and June 2018, against the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan. The program was implemented in 2006 and offers tax-free reimbursement of medical expenses that aren’t normally covered by insurance coverage and which were incurred by the players and their families. Of the amount claimed, $3.4 million had ben paid out.
The claims were made for expensive medical equipment that ranged from $40,000-$50,000 in each claim. Among the items included were “hyperbaric oxygen chambers, cryotherapy machines, ultrasound machines designed for use by a doctor’s office to conduct women’s health examinations and electromagnetic therapy devices designed for use on a horse.”
According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Buckhalter, Eubans, McCune, Rogers and Vanover, as well as others, are said to have recruited other players into the activity through offers of claim submissions in exchange for bribes and kickbacks. The DOJ adds that these illicit payments were for anywhere from several thousand dollars to as much as $10,000 per claim.
In a DOJ press release, U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr. said, “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. The defendants allegedly submitted false claims to the plan and obtained money for expensive medical equipment that was never purchased or received, depriving that plan of valuable resources to help others meet their medical needs.”
Health care giant Cigna apparently became suspicious after seeing so many large claims in such a short period and contacted authorities, leading to the investigation. No doctors have been caught up in the scandal, as all documents related to the fraud had been forged, but the DOJ indicates that the investigation is still continuing, and that other charges may be coming as more evidence, if any, is uncovered.
The former NFL players are said to have allegedly created false documents to support the fraud claims, and Buckhalter and McCune would make calls to the plan provider to check on the claims’ status while impersonating the players. All have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud. Bennett, Brown, Butler and Porter are the former NFL players also looking at one count each of wire fraud and health care fraud, while Eubanks, Rogers and Vanover were charged with two counts of wire fraud and two of health care fraud – McCune faces nine charges of each. It isn’t clear from the DOJ statement what roles Horn and Caldwell had in the scheme, or why they were not charged the same as the others.
George L. Piro, the FBI Special Agent in Charge who oversaw the investigation, adds in the press release, “This investigation serves as an illustration of the rampant and deliberate scams against health care plans occurring daily throughout the country. In this case, these fraudsters pocketed money from the Gene Upshaw National Football League Health Reimbursement Account Plan that was intended for former NFL players who are ill or infirm. Over 20 FBI field offices participated in this investigation, which demonstrates the level of commitment we have to rooting out this type of fraud.”