La. woman accused of defrauding NFL fund for ex-players

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GRETNA, La. (AP) — A woman who had a son with former NFL defensive lineman Norman Hand was arrested Thursday on allegations of defrauding a healthcare fund for retired players and their dependents out of about $60,000.

A Louisiana State Police investigation alleges that Toni Charles, 53, submitted false claims for Hand's son to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Reimbursement Account Plan.

Charles responded to an arrest warrant by turning herself in to the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center, where she was booked on charges of theft of more than $25,000 and forgery. It was not immediately clear whether she had legal representation.

The Upshaw fund was created in 2006 to provide tax-free reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical care expenses that were not covered by insurance and were incurred by former players, their wives and dependents.

Hand, a South Carolina native, played in college for Mississippi and spent nine seasons in the NFL with Miami, San Diego, New Orleans, Seattle and the New York Giants. He had 22 1/2 career sacks.

Hand died in South Carolina of heart disease in 2010. He was 37.

Louisiana State Police say the Upshaw fund reimbursed Charles for false claims she submitted regarding medical treatment for her then-teenage son in 2018.

Trooper Katherine Stegall, a spokeswoman for Troop B of the Louisiana State Police, said the investigation of Charles' claims began in March 2021 when a fund administrator relayed concerns of potential illegal activity to police.

Police are investigating additional allegations of fraud involving the Upshaw fund, but have not disclosed details about what's alleged or whether other people are involved.

A federal investigation into similar fraud already has produced multiple convictions.

Former NFL receiver Joe Horn, who was a Saints teammate of Hand from 2000 through 2002, pleaded guilty in federal court in 2019 to submitting false claims for nearly $150,000 and was sentenced to three years of probation.

The Justice Department alleged Horn was among 10 ex-NFL players who submitted nearly $4 million in false claims to the plan, resulting in over $3.4 million being paid out between June 2017 and December 2018.

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