NFL players embroiled in 'brazen' health care fraud scheme, federal prosecutors say

Department of Justice says a dozen former stars involved in multi-million dollar plan that billed for women's ultrasound machines and devices meant for horses, among other expensive equipment

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 12 December 2019 21:58
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Former Washington Reskins star cornerback Clinton Portis was among a dozen former NFL players involved in a health care fraud scheme, federal prosecutors say.
Former Washington Reskins star cornerback Clinton Portis was among a dozen former NFL players involved in a health care fraud scheme, federal prosecutors say.

Federal prosecutors have charged 10 former National Football League players in a "brazen" health care fraud scheme that collected millions of dollars from a program meant to support out-of-pocket expenses for retired players falling on hard times.

According to the Department of Justice, the players filed nearly $4m in false and fraudulent claims to the plan between June 2017 and December 2018 for expensive medical equipment that was never purchased or received, including hyperbaric oxygen chambers, cryotherapy machines, ultrasound machines meant for women's health examinations, and electromagnetic therapy devices designed for use on horses.

Phony claims ranged from $40,000 and $50,000. The plan paid out more than $3.4m from the claims they submitted.

Players targeted the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, intended to support former players facing financial hardship "due to an unforeseen crisis, unaffordable medical situations and players who wish to go back to school to finish their undergraduate degrees".

The case includes wire and health care fraud charges against Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Carlos Rogers, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, and Clinton Portis.

Mr Portis, among the most well-known of the indicted players for his decade-long career in the NFL, rushed for nearly 1,000 years in more than half of the seasons he played from 2002 to 2009.

In a statement, his attorney Mark Dycio said Mr Portis is "completely taken aback by this indictment and will move forward with the process of clearing his good name and those of his fellow NFL alumni".

Correll Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt were charged with conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud.

Two more players — Joe Horn and Reche Caldwell — will be charged in criminal bills of information with conspiracy to commit fraud, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors argued that the players recruited others into the scheme by offering kickbacks and bribes that ranged from a few thousand dollars to more than $10,000 per claim submitted on other players' behalf.

As part of the scheme, the players allegedly "fabricated supporting documentation for the claims, including invoices, prescriptions and letters of medical necessity".

After the claims were submitted, Mr McCune and Mr Buckhalter allegedly called the phone number provided by the plan and "impersonated certain other players in order to check on the status" of their claims.

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