10 ex-NFL players charged with defrauding healthcare program – Prosecutors allege nearly $4 million in phony claims

This Sept. 12, 2010, file photo shows Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis before the start of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, in Landover, Md. 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/Rob Carr, File)

By MICHAEL BALSAMO, Associated Press  WASHINGTON (AP) 12/12 — Ten former NFL players were charged in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud the league’s health care benefit program by submitting false claims for medical equipment, including devices used on horses, the Justice Department said Thursday.

The players were charged in two separate indictments filed in federal court in Kentucky, accusing them of conspiracy, wire fraud and healthcare fraud.

The players were charged in two separate indictments filed in federal court in Kentucky, accusing them of conspiracy, wire fraud and healthcare fraud. Prosecutors allege they submitted nearly $4 million in phony claims, leading to payouts of about $3.4 million between June 2017 and December 2018.

Those charged include five former players on the Washington Redskins, including Clinton Portis and Carlos Rogers.

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)

 

Prosecutors allege the players targeted the 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 care expenses that were not covered by insurance and that were incurred by former players, their spouses and dependents.

“As outlined in the indictments, a group of former players brazenly defrauded the plan by seeking reimbursements for expensive medical equipment that they never purchased,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, who leads the Justice Department’s criminal division.

The players claimed to have purchased hyperbaric oxygen chambers, ultrasound machines and electromagnetic therapy devices that were designed to be used on horses, he said.

Prosecutors say the group’s alleged ringleaders, Robert McCune and Correll Buckhalter — who they allege broke off to create his own similar ring — would recruit former players by offering to submit fake claims to the health care plan. The ringleaders would then demand thousands of dollars in kickbacks for each fake claim, prosecutors allege.

Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, left, in charge of the criminal division of the Dept. of Justice, U.S. Attorney Robert Duncan, of the Eastern District of Kentucky, center, and FBI Special Agent George Piro, in charge of the FBI’s office in Miami, right, appear at a news conference to announce charges against ten former National Football League (NFL) players who are accused of defrauding an NFL health care program, at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

 

The suspects are accused of fabricating letters from health care providers about using the medical equipment, fabricating prescriptions that were purportedly signed by healthcare providers and creating fake invoices from medical equipment companies in an effort to prove the equipment was purchased, according to court documents. In reality, they had never purchased or received the medical equipment, prosecutors said.

Investigators believe the defendants had forged the prescriptions and authorization letters and uncovered no evidence that any doctors were complicit in the scheme, Benczkowski said.

After the phony claims were submitted, the former players would receive reimbursement checks and pay a kickback to the ringleaders and recruiters, the indictments charge.

Prosecutors moved to bring charges, in part because the scheme put the health care plan’s tax-exempt status at risk, which could’ve forced other former players using the plan legitimately to pay more, Benczkowski said.

Four of the suspects, McCune, Rogers, John Eubanks and Ceandris Brown, were arrested Thursday morning by the FBI. Six others had agreed to surrender to authorities, the Justice Department said. They are: James Butler, Fredrick Bennett, Etric Pruitt, Tamarick Vanover, Portis and Buckhalter.

The Justice Department has also filed court papers in Kentucky noting that it plans to file charges against two other players as well, including Joe Horn, a four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints, and Donald “Reche” Caldwell.

The investigation was continuing, but because the plan involves only former players prosecutors do not expect any current NFL players to face charges, Benczkowski said.

Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, center, in charge of the criminal division at the Dept. of Justice, U.S. Attorney Robert Duncan, of the Eastern District of Kentucky, left, and FBI Special Agent George Piro, right, in charge of the FBI’s Miami office, appears at a news conference to announce charges against ten former National Football League (NFL) players who are accused of defrauding an NFL health care program, at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

 

Portis’ lawyer, Mark Dycio, said his client “had no knowledge that his participation in what he believed to be an NFL sanctioned medical reimbursement insurance program was illegal.”

“He is completely taken aback by the indictment and will move forward with the process of clearing his good name and those of his fellow NFL alumni,” Dycio said.

, leading to payouts of about $3.4 million between June 2017 and December 2018.

Those charged include five former players on the Washington Redskins, including Clinton Portis and Carlos Rogers.

Prosecutors allege the players targeted the 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 care expenses that were not covered by insurance and that were incurred by former players, their spouses and dependents.

“As outlined in the indictments, a group of former players brazenly defrauded the plan by seeking reimbursements for expensive medical equipment that they never purchased,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, who leads the Justice Department’s criminal division.

The players claimed to have purchased hyperbaric oxygen chambers, ultrasound machines and electromagnetic therapy devices that were designed to be used on horses, he said.

Prosecutors say the group’s alleged ringleaders, Robert McCune and Correll Buckhalter — who they allege broke off to create his own similar ring — would recruit former players by offering to submit fake claims to the health care plan. The ringleaders would then demand thousands of dollars in kickbacks for each fake claim, prosecutors allege.

The suspects are accused of fabricating letters from health care providers about using the medical equipment, fabricating prescriptions that were purportedly signed by healthcare providers and creating fake invoices from medical equipment companies in an effort to prove the equipment was purchased, according to court documents. In reality, they had never purchased or received the medical equipment, prosecutors said.

Investigators believe the defendants had forged the prescriptions and authorization letters and uncovered no evidence that any doctors were complicit in the scheme, Benczkowski said.

After the phony claims were submitted, the former players would receive reimbursement checks and pay a kickback to the ringleaders and recruiters, the indictments charge.

Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski announces charges against ten former National Football League (NFL) players who are accused of defrauding an NFL health care program, at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

 

Prosecutors moved to bring charges, in part because the scheme put the health care plan’s tax-exempt status at risk, which could’ve forced other former players using the plan legitimately to pay more, Benczkowski said.

Four of the suspects, McCune, Rogers, John Eubanks and Ceandris Brown, were arrested Thursday morning by the FBI. Six others had agreed to surrender to authorities, the Justice Department said. They are: James Butler, Fredrick Bennett, Etric Pruitt, Tamarick Vanover, Portis and Buckhalter.

The Justice Department has also filed court papers in Kentucky noting that it plans to file charges against two other players as well, including Joe Horn, a four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints, and Donald “Reche” Caldwell.

The investigation was continuing, but because the plan involves only former players prosecutors do not expect any current NFL players to face charges, Benczkowski said.

Portis’ lawyer, Mark Dycio, said his client “had no knowledge that his participation in what he believed to be an NFL sanctioned medical reimbursement insurance program was illegal.”

“He is completely taken aback by the indictment and will move forward with the process of clearing his good name and those of his fellow NFL alumni,” Dycio said.

https://apnews.com/57e5b80e984167ff98e8c83aff483ae5\

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Posted in: Conspiracy, Dept. of Justice, Fraud, Illegal Activities, Indictments, Scams

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