CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Former NFL wide receiver Reggie Rucker was charged in federal court with illegally siphoning off more than $100,000 from his anti-violence charities to pay off gambling debts and personal expenses, prosecutors in Cleveland said on Tuesday.
Rucker, 68, was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to the FBI when it questioned him about his suspected diversion of charitable funds, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio said.
Rucker, who played in the National Football League from 1970 to 1981, spending most of his career with the Cleveland Browns, heads two anti-violence charities called Amer-I-Can Cleveland and the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance. He has not spoken to media about the charges.
“Reggie Rucker misused his celebrity and position in the community to dupe some of our most important local foundations and generous citizens,” Acting U.S. Attorney Carole Rendon said in a statement.
“In one breath he begged generous donors to save Amer-I-Can and the Peacemakers Alliance, and in the next he stole that money to support his lifestyle and his gambling junkets in Cleveland, Florida, and Las Vegas, using the charity’s account as his own ATM,” Rendon said
Prosecutors said that from 2010 to 2015, Rucker withdrew about $48,000 from the Amer-I-Can bank account while at casinos across the country to pay off gambling debts.
Rucker wrote checks to himself and made withdrawals from charity coffers to pay his mortgage, travel, groceries and dry cleaning, prosecutors added. He also significantly understated the amount of money received as compensation to the Internal Revenue Service, according to a U.S. attorney’s criminal complaint.
Reporting by Kim Palmer; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Peter Cooney