Dr. Beth Sullivan | December 13th, 2019
Ten retired NFL players were charged in two indictments on Thursday, for allegedly submitting phony health care claims seeking to be reimbursed for expensive medical equipment that was never purchased. Additional indictments are planned against additional defendants. The indictment came thru the Federal courts because the scheme crossed state lines.
The alleged fraud targeted the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which was established pursuant to the 2006 collective bargaining agreement and provided for tax-free reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical care expenses that were not covered by insurance and that were incurred by former players, their wives and their dependents – up to a maximum of $350,000 per player. According to the charging documents, over $3.9 million in false and fraudulent claims were submitted to the Plan, and the Plan paid out over $3.4 million on those claims between June 2017 and December 2018.
Robert McCune and Correll Buckhalter were the masterminds of the scheme and would recruit former players by offering to submit fake claims to the health care plan. According to the indictment, Buckhalter had broken off from McCune and started his own branch of the plan. The ringleaders would then collect thousands of dollars in kickbacks for each fake claim. The recruited player would then try to recruit other players and receive kickbacks from claims filed by the former players they recruited. This was basically a pyramid scheme designed to defraud the healthcare plan of millions of dollars.
According to the press release from the prosecutor’s office the following former NFL players have been implicated in this plan to defraud the healthcare plan and commit wire fraud because payments were made thru wire transfers.
- Robert McCune, 40, of Riverdale, Georgia, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, nine counts of wire fraud and nine counts of health care fraud.
- John Eubanks, 36, of Cleveland, Mississippi; Tamarick Vanover, 45, of Tallahassee, Florida; and Carlos Rogers, 38, of Alpharetta, Georgia, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, two counts of wire fraud and two counts of health care fraud.
- Clinton Portis, 38, of McLean, Virginia; Ceandris Brown, 36, of Fresno, Texas; James Butler, 37, of Atlanta, Georgia; and Fredrick Bennett, 35, of Port Wentworth, Georgia, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of health care fraud.
- Correll Buckhalter, 41, of Colleyville, Texas, and Etric Pruitt, 38, of Theodore, Alabama, are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud.
At least two additional players Joseph Horn, 47, of Columbia, South Carolina, and Donald “Reche” Caldwell, 40, of Tampa, Florida were mentioned in the press release, but have not been formally charged as of now since their involvement is still being investigated.
Red flags were raised when the expensive medical equipment described on the false and fraudulent claims included hyperbaric oxygen chambers, cryotherapy machines, ultrasound machines designed for use by a doctor’s office to conduct women’s health examinations and electromagnetic therapy devices designed for use on horses. Cigna, the plan administrator, contacted federal authorities when these discrepancies were identified. The claims were typically for forty to fifty thousand dollars each included fabricated supporting documentation provided by the scheme masterminds that verified the alleged purchase of the equipment.
If convicted the conspirators could face up to twenty years in federal prison on each count, however typically in this type of case, sentences are served concurrently. Six of the former players turned themselves in to federal authorities. The remaining four, considered to be head conspirators in the scheme were arrested by the FBI without incident on Thursday.
The investigation into this scheme is ongoing and additional indictments are possible and expected. This case is still unfolding so as more information is made available we will publish updates to this story.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images