Retired NFL Players Accused of Defrauding Benefits Program

(CN) – Ten former NFL players were indicted on federal charges Thursday, accused of filing fraudulent claims worth over $3.9 million to a health care program set up for retired players and their families.

Two separate federal indictments were filed in Lexington, Kentucky, claiming a group of former players sought reimbursement for medical equipment they never purchased.

Among the items the players sought reimbursement for were hyperbaric oxygen chambers, ultrasound machines used in women’s health exams, and electromagnetic therapy devices intended for use on horses.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski delivered remarks Thursday at a press conference in Washington, saying the players “brazenly defrauded” the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan.

He detailed the scheme, which involved several players recruiting other retirees and receiving kickbacks once the reimbursements were paid out.

“The ringleaders demanded kickbacks ranging from a few thousand dollars to $10,000 or more for each fraudulent claim,” Benczkowski said. “In each case, the forms submitted in support of the claim were completely fabricated. This included things like face invoices from medical supply companies, and forged letters and prescriptions from medical care providers.”

According to one of the indictments, the scheme began in the summer of 2017 and continued for over a year.

The Upshaw plan was created in 2006, and is intended to allow former NFL players to seek reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical expenses for themselves and their dependents.

Players named in one of the indictments include Clinton Portis, Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett and Etric Pruitt. The other indictment names Correll Buckhalter and Carlos Rogers.

Portis is the most noteworthy player named in the indictment. He played in the NFL for nine seasons after being drafted in the second round by the Denver Broncos in 2002.

The players are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud.

The indictments also seek the forfeiture of the money given to the players through plan reimbursements.

Benczkowski claimed the former players’ actions put the retirement plan at risk of losing its tax-exempt status, and “threatened the ability of law-abiding former players to continue to receive tax-free reimbursements for legitimate medical expenses for themselves or their families.”

He said the investigation into the scheme is ongoing.

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