Several former NFL players have been charged with insurance fraud. Federal prosecutors charged the group with defrauding the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account plan. These retired players reportedly sought reimbursements for expensive medical equipment and prescriptions they didn’t buy.
The players could face significant fines and prison time if convicted of the crimes. Not all of the accused athletes are handling the allegations the same way. Former Saints wide receiver Joe Horn, in particular, is taking a different approach to the case.
The accusations against NFL players
The 10 former players involved in the case include Horn, Clinton Portis, Correll Buckhalter, and Carlos Rogers. According to the Department of Justice officials, in 2017, the defendants developed a scheme to make money off the insurance plan.
It was a pretty straightforward scheme. The former players make up fake claims, which they submitted to the plan designed to help retired players pay medical bills. The plan then reimbursed the players for the submitted claims, even though they never paid anything out-of-pocket.
Some of the equipment allegedly sought for reimbursement included hyperbaric oxygen chambers and ultrasound machines. Authorities say the players received more than $3 million in reimbursements before authorities detected the scheme. Any players convicted of the crime face up to 20 years in prison and fines in excess of $250,000.
How Joe Horn reacted to the charges
Some players — including Portis, whose attorney said “has no knowledge” that his participation in the medical reimbursement was illegal — are fighting the case in court. Horn is taking a different approach, however.
The 47-year-old has pled guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, a charge that carries a sentence of up to 10 years in jail, $250,000, and probation. But Horn hopes his punishment is less than that, which is why he took the plea deal in an attempt to lighten his sentence.
According to court documents, Horn’s plea agreement saw him admit to submitting two false claims totaling up to $149,775, which he’ll have to pay back in addition to any penalties the court hands down. Horn is expected to receive a lenient punishment at his sentencing, scheduled for April.
Horn’s NFL career
The Cardinals first drafted the 12-year NFL veteran in the fifth round of the 1996 draft. They traded Horn to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he played his first four seasons. Then, the wide receiver left in free agency to go to New Orleans, where he spent seven seasons with the Saints before heading to the Falcons for his final season in the league in 2007.
Horn totaled 603 receptions in his career for 8,744 yards and 58 touchdowns. He had a career year in 2004, catching 94 balls for 1,399 yards and 11 touchdowns. That season was the final of four Pro Bowl appearances for Horn, who’s probably most famous for a 2003 touchdown celebration.
After scoring his second touchdown against the Giants, Horn pulled a cell phone out from underneath the padding on the goalpost and pretended to make a call. Celebrating with a prop drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, along with a $30,000 fine. (In 2018, Saints WR Michael Thomas re-created the celebration after scoring on a 72-yard touchdown catch against the Rams.)