Joe Horn, ex-Saints star, pleads guilty to medical fraud

Geaux Black and Gold

Ellis Lucia, Times-Picayune archive

Horn was one of several retired NFL players who allegedly scammed a benefits program to make millions for medical help they didn’t need.

NEW ORLEANS (WWL-TV) — Former New Orleans Saints receiver Joe Horn pleaded guilty Thursday to scamming a benefits program designed to help retired NFL players pay their medical expenses. 

Horn was one of 12 former players named in federal indictments earlier this month for an alleged scheme that prosecutors say cost the “Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Plan” more than $3.4 million in reimbursements for medical equipment and procedures that were never actually purchased.

Horn, 47, was not one of the players initially charged in the Dec. 12 indictments but was named in a separate federal bill of information, suggesting he was cooperating with investigators for a plea agreement. 

On Thursday, he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud after he admitted to submitting falsified medical records to get $150,000 in reimbursements, NOLA.com reports. 

The charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine but Horn may be subject to a less severe sentence, possibly probation. 

Horn, a Mississippi native, was a wide receiver for the Saints from 2000-2006.

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

According to the FBI, the alleged scheme centered around the “Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan,” a benefits program for retired players created in 2006. 

“The Plan” provides tax-free reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical expenses of players and their families that are not already covered by insurance. 

These players submitted $3.9 million in fraudulent claims to The Plan, FBI officials said — getting reimbursed for medical services and equipment that they never purchased. 

The scheme, detailed in the two FBI indictments in the Eastern District of Kentucky, allegedly had certain players recruit others to make claims for reimbursement for expensive medical equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars.

This system of kickbacks had players say they bought cryotherapy machines, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, ultrasound machines and more, then present fabricated invoices, prescriptions, and other official documents to get reimbursed. These purchases typically ranged from $40-$50,000 in value, according to the FBI indictments. 

To read more about the FBI indictments, click here.

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