NFL (stock photo)

Ten former National Football League (NFL) players have been charged for their alleged roles in a nationwide fraud on a health care benefit program for retired NFL players.

Two of the defendants are from the Mobile area -- 38-year-old Etric Pruitt of Theodore, a former member of the Seattle Seahawks, the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons; and Robert McCune, who played for LeFlore High School and before getting drafted by the Washington Redskins. 

The alleged fraud targeted the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan (the 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.

“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. “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.”

“The defendants are alleged to have developed and executed a fraudulent scheme to undermine a health care benefit plan established by the NFL – one established to help their former teammates and colleagues pay for legitimate medical expenses,” said U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr., for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “The defendants allegedly submitted false claims to the plan and obtained money for expensive medical equipment that was never purchased or received, depriving that plan of valuable resources to help others meet their medical needs. We have prioritized the investigation and prosecution of health care fraud in our office, and we appreciate the partnership we share with the Criminal Division and the FBI in pursuing these important matters.”

“This investigation serves as an illustration of the rampant and deliberate scams against health care plans occurring daily throughout the country,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the Miami Field Office. “In this case, these fraudsters pocketed money from the Gene Upshaw National Football League Health Reimbursement Account Plan that was intended for former NFL players who are ill or infirm. Over 20 FBI field offices participated in this investigation which demonstrates the level of commitment we have to rooting out this type of fraud.”

Two separate indictments filed in the Eastern District of Kentucky outline two alleged conspiracies involving different players related to the same scheme to defraud the Plan. Those charged in the indictments are the following:

• 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.

In addition, the government has filed notice that it intends to file criminal informations charging Joseph Horn, 47, of Columbia, South Carolina, and Donald “Reche” Caldwell, 40, of Tampa, Florida, with conspiracy to commit health care fraud in the Eastern District of Kentucky.

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