Ten former NFL players on Thursday were charged in federal court for their alleged participation in a nationwide fraud on a health care benefits program for retired football players.

The alleged fraud targeted the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which was created in 2006 to provide reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical care expenses that were not covered by insurance. The plan covers up to $350,000 in charges for former players, their spouses and dependents.

The Justice Department said the 10 players submitted more than $3.9 million in false and fraudulent claims to the plan, which paid out $3.4 million on those claims between June 2017 and December 2018.

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“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,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in a statement. “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.”

“This investigation serves as an illustration of the rampant and deliberate scams against health care plans occurring daily throughout the country,” added George L. Piro, the FBI special agent in charge at the Miami field office. “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 were filed in the Eastern District of Kentucky detailing two alleged conspiracies by different players that were all connected as part of the same scheme. 

Among those charged are Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Carlos Rogers, Clinton Portis, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Fredrick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt.

The indictments allege that the scheme involved submitting false claims to the plan to receive expensive medical equipment that was never purchased or received. The claims were typically between $40,000 and $50,000 each.

The Justice Department accused McCune, Eubanks, Vanover, Buckhalter, Rogers and others of recruiting other former players into the scheme by offering to submit the false claims in exchange for kickbacks and bribes that topped $10,000 or more per claim.

Benczkowski said the scheme only stopped after Cigna, a health insurance provider, detected the irregularities, stopped paying the claims and alerted the Justice Department.