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December 12, 2019

Former Eagle Correll Buckhalter charged with defrauding NFL health benefit program

Former Philadelphia Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter is among 10 retired NFL players charged with defrauding the league's retiree health care benefits plan, according to a pair of indictments unsealed Thursday.

Buckhalter, 41, allegedly is among a group of former players who sought reimbursements for expensive equipment that they never purchased. They allegedly used the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan to obtain these tax-free reimbursements for out-of-pocket medical care expenses.

"As a result of the fraud, more than $3.9 million in phony claims were submitted to the Plan, and the Plan paid out approximately $3.4 million on those claims between mid-2017 and mid-2018," said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, of the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The indictment further alleges that the ringleaders of the fraud recruited other eligible former NFL players to participate in the scheme.

Equipment noted in the fraudulent claims, typically in the range of $40,000 to $50,000 each, included hyperbaric oxygen chambers, ultrasound machines and electromagnetic therapy devices designed for use on horses, according to prosecutors.

Investigators said false claims were submitted by ringleaders on behalf of recruited players, using fake invoices from medical supply companies and forged letters and prescriptions from medical care providers.

The fraud was first reported by Cigna when it detected unusual claims and refused to pay them.

The list of players named in the indictments include the following:

Clinton Portis, former Denver Broncos and Washington running back
Robert McCune, former Washington linebacker
John Eubanks, former Washington cornerback
Tamarick Vanover, former Chiefs wide receiver
Ceandris “C.C.” Brown, former Texans safety
James Butler, former Giants and Rams safety
Fredrick Bennett, former Texans defensive back;
Etric Pruitt, former Falcons and Seahawks defensive back
Carlos Rogers, former Washington and 49ers cornerback
Correll Buckhalter, former Eagles and Broncos running back

Additional charges are expected to be filed against former Saints receiver Joe Horn and former Chargers receiver Reche Caldwell.

Buckhalter was selected by the Eagles in the fourth round of the 2001 NFL draft and spent eight seasons in Philadelphia. He played his final two seasons in Denver before retiring at the end of the 2010 season.

The Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan was established in 2006 as part of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL Players' Association.

Prosecutors said the investigation remains ongoing.