Former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn pleads guilty for role in health care scam

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Former New Orleans Saints Pro Bowl wide receiver Joe Horn is facing up to 10 years in prison for playing a role in defrauding the NFL's health care program for retired players.

Horn appeared before a federal judge in Kentucky on Thursday and pled guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud after he admitted to receiving $149,774 for fake claims in 2018, according to court records. He is scheduled to be sentenced in April, although Nola.com reported his guilty plea likely means he is cooperating with federal authorities for a more lenient sentence.

The scheme was designed to rip off a health care program that covered unreimbursed medical expenses for retired NFL players, authorities said.

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Twelve players were charged last week in two separate indictments filed in federal court in Kentucky, accusing them of conspiracy, wire fraud and healthcare fraud. Prosecutors allege they submitted nearly $4 million in phony claims, leading to payouts of about $3.4 million between June 2017 and December 2018.

Former <a data-cke-saved-href="https://www.foxnews.com/category/sports/nfl/new-orleans-saints" href="https://www.foxnews.com/category/sports/nfl/new-orleans-saints">New Orleans Saints</a> Pro Bowl wide receiver Joe Horn is facing up to 10 years in prison for playing a role in defrauding the <a data-cke-saved-href="https://www.foxnews.com/category/sports/nfl" href="https://www.foxnews.com/category/sports/nfl" target="_blank">NFL’s</a> health care program for retired players.<br data-cke-eol="1">
REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES) – GM1DTZCSZMAA

Clinton Portis, Carlos Rogers, Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter, and Etric Pruitt are among the players charged by the Justice Department. The DOJ had announced it would also seek charges against Horn and Ronald "Reche" Caldwell.

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The alleged scheme consisted of fake claims submissions that involved expensive medical equipment ranging between $40,000 and $50,000 for each claim, officials said. The medical equipment included “hyperbaric oxygen chambers, cryotherapy machines, ultrasound machines designed for use by a doctor’s office to conduct women’s health examinations and electromagnetic therapy devices designed for use on a horse.”

Prosecutors allege the players targeted the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which was established as part of a collective bargaining agreement in 2006. It provides tax-free reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical care expenses that were not covered by insurance and that were incurred by former players, their spouses and dependents.

Horn — a four-time Pro Bowler and one of the Saints' most famous players — admitted to playing off co-defendants Vanover, Caldwell, and others who allegedly helped him submit the false claims.

He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

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