They may be retired from the NFL, but ten former football players may get long-term contracts with the Prison League. The Department of Justice unveiled an indictment that alleges a scheme to defraud the league’s retirement health insurance fund, including wire fraud, amounting to the theft of nearly $4 million. Prosecutors point out in their announcement that the ten defendants allegedly stole from their former teammates in this scheme:

Prosecutors allege that the players submitted false and fraudulent claims for high-cost medical equipment to the league’s Gene Upshaw Health Reimbursement Account Plan for retired players between June of 2017 and December of 2018.

In a press release, the Justice Department said the charges range from health care fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy — involving over $3.9 million in false health care claims. …

According to the Justice Department, the former players would offer to submit claims for medical equipment including hyperbaric oxygen chambers, cryotherapy machines and ultrasound machines in exchange for “kickbacks and bribes that range from a few thousand dollars to $10,000 or more per claim submitted.” The players are alleged to have fabricated documents like prescriptions and invoices in order to secure payouts for their claims.

“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.”

CNN has the most handy list of the indictees rather than inductees:

The defendants include:

  • [Clinton] Portis, the former Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos running back;
  • Robert McCune, a former linebacker with the Redskins;
  • John Eubanks, a former cornerback with the Redskins;
  • Tamarick Vanover, a former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver;
  • Ceandris “C.C.” Brown, a former Houston Texans safety;
  • James Butler, a former New York Giants and St. Louis Rams safety;
  • Fredrick Bennett, a former Houston Texans defensive back;
  • Etric Pruitt, a former defensive back for the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks;
  • Carlos Rogers, a former Redskins and San Francisco 49ers cornerback;
  • and Correll Buckhalter, a former Philadelphia Eagles running back.

In addition, the government plans to file criminal informations charging Joseph Horn, the former New Orleans Saints wide receiver, and Donald “Reche” Caldwell, the former San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots wide receiver, according to the news release.

The Upshaw fund, set up in 2006 in collective-bargaining negotiations, acts as supplemental insurance for retired players. It covers out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles in order to allow retired players — not all of whom made tons of money while playing in the NFL — from draining their resources while dealing with health issues, especially those related to their work on the field. According to the DoJ, the scheme drained over $3.4 million with another half-million on the way until Cigna, which manages the fund, caught onto the fraud. They referred it to the FBI, which had over 20 of their offices working on the case.

This is rather ugly stuff, especially given who the victims are of this alleged fraud. None of these athletes made superstar status or salaries, but some of them played for long enough to do pretty darned well financially, at least at the time. Portis and Rogers lasted for a decade in the league, while Horn was a 12-year, four-time Pro Bowl receiver whose son is currently with the Ravens organization. That’s going to be very, very awkward for Horn Jr for a while.

If prosecutors can prove this case, don’t expect these guys to get much sympathy, either from the public or from their former teammates. One has to believe that none of these guys will be invited to reunions any time soon, assuming they’d be at liberty to attend in the first place.