Almost a dozen former NFL players were charged on Thursday in the Eastern District of Kentucky for allegedly participating in a nationwide fraud scheme targeting the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan - which provides ex-athletes of the league, their spouses and dependants with up to $350,000 in tax-free refunds for out-of-pocket medical expenses not covered by their insurance.
“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 Benczkowski said, as noted in the DoJ Office of Public Affairs December 12 release. “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.”
Robert M. Duncan Jr., US attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, explained that the individuals charged submitted false claims to the NFL reimbursement plan concerning medical equipment which was never actually purchased and pocketed the subsequent refund. The claims averaged between $40,000 and $50,000 and referenced medical equipment such as ultrasound machines, hyperbaric oxygen chambers and cryotherapy machines.
The federal lawyer argued that this act deprived “that plan of valuable resources to help others meet their medical needs.”
Those indicted include: Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Carlos Rogers, Clinton Portis, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Fredrick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt.
McCune, Eubanks, Vanover, Buckhalter and Rogers were identified in the charging documents as ringleaders of the scheme who lured in the other ex-NFL athletes. McCune and Buckhalter specifically are alleged to have also called numbers provided by the reimbursement plan and impersonated those involved to check on the status of their fraudulent claims.
In addition to charges of health care fraud, the federal document revealed the former NFL players are also facing various counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
“This investigation serves as an illustration of the rampant and deliberate scams against health care plans occurring daily throughout the country,” FBI Special Agent George L. Piro of the Miami Field Office asserted.
The DoJ’s release noted that the department also intends to charge Donald “Reche” Caldwell and Joseph Horn with conspiracy to commit health care fraud in the Eastern District of Kentucky.