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Feds charge 10 ex-NFL players with defrauding health care program

FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2014 file photo, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers adjusts his helmet during practice at an NFL football training facility in Santa Clara, Calif. Ten former NFL players have been charged with defrauding the league’s healthcare benefit program. They include five who played on the Washington Redskins, including Clinton Portis and Carlos Rogers. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

In this Jan. 15, 2014, file photo, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers adjusts his helmet during practice at an NFL football training facility in Santa Clara, California. Ten former NFL players have been charged with defrauding the league’s health care benefit program. They include five who played on the Washington Redskins, including Clinton Portis and Carlos Rogers. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Ten former NFL players, including a former Raven and several who spent time on the Washington Redskins, face federal charges for allegedly defrauding the league’s health care benefit program, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Former Redskins players Clinton Portis, Robert McCune, John Eubanks and Carlos Rogers are named in filings in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. McCune also played for the Baltimore Ravens.

Prosecutors allege the players targeted the Baltimore-based Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which was established as part of a collective bargaining agreement in 2006. It provides tax-free reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical expenses that were not covered by insurance and that were incurred by former players, their spouses and dependents.

“Ten former NFL players allegedly committed a brazen, multi-million 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 Brian A. Benczkowski, of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, 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.”

The Justice Department alleges the former players submitted nearly $4 million in false claims to the plan, resulting in more than $3.4 million being paid out between June 2017 and December 2018. The defendants allegedly submitted claims for expensive medical equipment, usually costing between $40,000 and $50,000 per item, which they did not purchase. The claimed equipment included hyperbaric oxygen chambers, cryotherapy machines and ultrasound machines designed for women’s health examinations.

The indictment alleges they fabricated letters from health care providers, fabricated prescriptions purportedly signed by health care providers and created fake invoices from medical equipment companies in an effort to prove the equipment had been purchased. The players allegedly recruited others into the scheme in exchange for kickbacks and some impersonated other players when calling to check the status of the claims, according to the indictment.

The other players charged are Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Fredrick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt. They are all between 36 and 41 years old. Prosecutors also announced the intention to file charges by criminal information against former NFL player Joseph Horn and another former Redskin, Donald “Reche” Caldwell.

More than 20 FBI field offices participated in the investigation, according to a news release from the Justice Department. The charges include wire fraud and health care fraud as well as conspiracy to commit fraud.

“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,” U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr., of the Eastern District of Kentucky, said in a statement. “We have prioritized the investigation and prosecution of health care fraud in our office, and we appreciate the partnership we share with the Criminal Division and the FBI in pursuing these important matters.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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