Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department said in a federal indictment Thursday a dozen former professional football players conspired to defraud the National Football League's health reimbursement program out of nearly $4 million.
Prosecutors in the Eastern District of Kentucky said the players orchestrated "a brazen, multimillion-dollar fraud" in which they filed $3.9 million worth of phony claims with the NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan.
A total of 10 players were charged in Thursday's indictment, and prosecutors said they will soon file against two more.
The charges range from conspiracy and wire fraud to healthcare fraud.
Prosecutors said the NFL's health program -- which was established to provide tax-free reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical expenses -- paid out more than $3.4 million on false claims between June 2017 and December 2018. The players sought reimbursement for costly medical equipment -- typically between $40,000 and $50,000 for each claim -- that was never bought or received, the charges say.
The complaint says some of the players actively recruited others and induced them to submit fraudulent claims, in exchange for kickbacks and bribes ranging from a few thousand dollars to $10,000 or more per claim.
Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said the players treated the health plan "like their own personal ATM."
"Sadly, the defendants placed the plan's tax-exempt status at risk and threatened the ability of law-abiding former players to continue to receive tax-free reimbursements for legitimate medical expenses for themselves or their families," he said.
Other former players named in the indictment include former Redskins linebacker Robert McCune, former Redskins cornerback John Eubanks, former Kansas City Chiefs receiver Tamarick Vanover, former St. Louis Rams safety James Butler, former Houston Texans defensive back Fredrick Bennett, former Philadelphia Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter and former Detroit Lions cornerback Etric Pruitt.
Benczkowski said the scheme stopped when health insurer Cigna began refusing claims.