WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal authorities on Thursday charged 10 former National Football League players for allegedly defrauding a healthcare program for more than $3.4 million by filing false claims for hyperbaric oxygen chambers and other expensive medical equipment.
FILE PHOTO: Washington Redskins Clinton Portis celebrates his second touchdown in the second quarter against the Houston Texans during their NFL football game in Landover, Maryland September 19, 2010. REUTERS/Molly Riley/File Photo
Former Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis, 38, and former Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers, 38, were among those charged by the U.S. Justice Department.
U.S. authorities also said they plan to file charges against Joe Horn, 47, who holds the New Orleans Saints touchdown record.
Brian Benczkowski, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said the former players filed false claims for expensive equipment like oxygen chambers, cryotherapy machines, and electromagnetic therapy devices designed to be used on horses.
Those devices, which typically cost up to $50,000, were actually never purchased, he said.
Ringleaders of the scheme took kickbacks or bribes of up to $10,000 from other former players to help carry it out, Benczkowski said.
“By defrauding the plan and treating it like their own personal ATM machine, sadly, the defendants placed the plan’s tax-exempt status at risk,” he said at a news conference.
A NFL spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The NFL Players’ Association declined to comment.
The alleged scheme targeted the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which was set up to help retired players cover medical expenses. No current NFL players are believed to be involved in the scheme, Benczkowski said.
Rogers and three other former players – Robert McCune, John Eubanks and Ceandris Brown – were arrested on Thursday morning, officials said. The other six defendants surrendered voluntarily.
Portis played nine seasons with Washington and the Denver Broncos. Rogers played 10 seasons for Washington, the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders.
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Andy Sullivan and Susan Heavey in Washington; Aditional reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Matthew Lewis
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