Ex-NFL player Reggie Rucker admits to embezzling from charities

Wed Feb 24, 2016 7:07pm EST
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By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Former National Football League wide receiver Reggie Rucker pleaded guilty in an Ohio federal court on Wednesday to diverting about $100,000 from anti-violence charities for personal use and to pay gambling debts, court records showed.

U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster, released the 68-old Rucker, who played in the NFL for 11 years and with the Cleveland Browns from 1975 to 1981, on $25,000 bond after a 23-minute hearing in a downtown Cleveland federal court.

Prosecutors last week charged Rucker with one count of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to the FBI when agents questioned him about his suspected diversion of charitable funds.

Rucker faces between 21 months to 27 months in prison on the two felony counts, according to his attorney Michael Hennenberg.

"Reggie has been cooperating with the government for over a year," Hennenberg said, adding that Rucker is seeking treatment for gambling addiction. "He knows he was wrong, he admits responsibility and plans to pay the money back."  

From 2010 to 2015, prosecutors said Rucker withdrew funds from the bank accounts of the two anti-violence charities he ran, Amer-I-Can Cleveland and the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance, to pay off gambling debts and personal expenses.

Rucker also significantly understated the amount of money he took from the Amer-I-Can bank account in filings to the Internal Revenue Service, prosecutors said. Sentencing is scheduled for May 23.

Rucker is one of the many former football players involved in a federal lawsuit seeking damages against the NFL for concussion injuries.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer in Cleveland; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Alan Crosby)