Ten former NFL players, including former Washington running back Clinton Portis, were accused of defrauding one of the league’s retiree health care benefit programs out of US$3.4-million for phony purchases of medical equipment, federal prosecutors said on Thursday.
Brian Benczkowski, assistant attorney-general for the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice, said claims totaling US$3.9-million were filed and US$3.4-million was reimbursed as part of a system that involved kickbacks and the recruiting of players to take part.
According to the indictment, the individual claims, filed from June, 2017 to December, 2018, averaged US$40,000 to US$50,000 each for medical equipment that was never prescribed by doctors and never ordered or delivered. Instead, the players are charged with filing fraudulent claims to the plan and, after being reimbursed, sending kickbacks to the ringleaders.
The retired players “treated the plan like it was their own personal ATM,” Benczkowski said.
According to prosecutors, the scheme was led by three former players: Robert McCune, John Eubanks and Tamarick Vanover. The men recruited other former players to take part by offering to submit fraudulent claims in exchange for kickbacks and bribes.
The two grand jury indictments, which were filed in the Eastern District of Kentucky, also named Carlos Rogers, a defensive back for Washington who last played in 2014; Correll Buckhalter, a running back who spent five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles; and several other players, including some who played in fewer than 10 NFL games.
McCune was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health-care fraud, nine counts of wire fraud and nine counts of health-care fraud. Eubanks, Vanover and Rogers were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health-care fraud, two counts of wire fraud and two counts of health-care fraud.
Portis, Ceandris Brown, James Butler and Fred Bennett were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health-care fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of health-care fraud.
Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health-care fraud.
Prosecutors said they intended to file conspiracy charges against two other players, Joseph Horn and Reche Caldwell.