The Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan was created to help former NFL players pay for certain medical expenses after their Continuing Veterans Insurance comes to an end.
It was named after the Hall of Fame player for the Oakland Raiders who later became the executive director of the NFL Players Association.
But $105,000 was stolen from the fund by one of the people it was intended to help.
Jameel Cook, an eight-year NFL veteran, submitted false claims for medical benefits through the fund, according to court documents filed by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in conjunction with the Texas Department of Insurance’s Fraud Unit.
He was convicted of stealing the money and was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years of probation and ordered to repay the $105,000.
“He stole from the very fund his fellow former players depend on for help,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. “And he has now fallen from professional football glory to the ranks of felons.”
RELEASE: Former NFL fullback convicted of stealing from player fund | https://t.co/MDQpqQUFcB
— Harris County DA (@HarrisCountyDAO) May 29, 2019
Between March 2016 and September 2017, Cook submitted 30 claims to the plan. Most of the claims were for compensation for insurance premiums that he claimed to have paid for himself and his family. But the claims were bogus, which led to an investigation.
It wasn’t until September 2018 that Cook was formally charged with a crime, and at the time he was facing up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Cook pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony on charges of securing the execution of documents by deception.
“He earned fame and great accolades in a career most could only dream of, and should have been role model,” Special Assistant District Attorney Jason Horn said in a statement. “Instead, he let down everyone around him by defrauding a plan set up for all players and taking money that wasn’t his.”
— ABC13 Houston (@abc13houston) May 30, 2019
He was also sentenced to 160 hours of community service in addition to a fine of $1,200.
Cook was a fullback in the NFL from 2001 to 2008. He spent his first five seasons in Tampa Bay and was a part of the Super Bowl-winning Buccaneers squad in the 2002 season.
He then spent two years with the Texans, and Houston is where he was convicted of the crime.
Cook returned to Tampa Bay for one final season with the Bucs in 2008 and then retired in 2009.
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