Ex-NFL player charged with using charitable donations to pay gambling debt

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Ex-NFL Player Charged With Using Charitable Donations To Pay Gambling Debt

CLEVELAND (WJW) -– Former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Reggie Rucker is facing federal charges after authorities say he used charitable donations to pay his gambling debts.

Rucker, 68, of Warrensville Heights, played for the Browns from 1975 to 1981. He was the executive director of Amer-I-Can Cleveland in Shaker Heights and president of the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance.

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He's charged with wire fraud and making false statements to law enforcement. FOX 8 News first reported on the investigation in July.

"Reggie Rucker misused his celebrity and position in the community to dupe some of our most important local foundations and generous citizens," said Acting U.S. Attorney Carole Rendon in a news release on Tuesday. "He stole from the very violence interrupters he so publically claimed to support. 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."

Attorney Michael Henneberg said Rucker is cooperating with federal authorities and admits he has a gambling problem, which led to some bad decisions.

Rucker through his career:

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Reggie Rucker, stealing charity funds
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Ex-NFL player charged with using charitable donations to pay gambling debt
CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 6: Wide receiver Reggie Rucker of the Cleveland Browns watches the action from the sideline during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Municipal Stadium on November 6, 1977 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Browns 10-7. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
FILE_This Wednesday, May 29, 2013, file photo shows former NFL player Reggie Rucker after a news conference for Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, in Cleveland. Rucker, who had roles with two inner-city organizations in Cleveland has been charged in federal court with stealing more than $100,000 from the groups to pay gambling debts and personal expenses. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)
MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 17, 1971: Wide receiver Reggie Rucker #88 of the Dallas Cowboys is tackled by Rick Volk #21 of the Baltimore Colts on a kick return during Super Bowl V on January 17, 1971 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. The Colts beat the Cowboys, 16-13 to win the professional football World Championship.19710117-FR-1971 Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images
MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 17, 1971: Wide receiver Reggie Rucker #88 of the Dallas Cowboys returns a kickoff during Super Bowl V against the Baltimore Colts on January 17, 1971 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. The Colts beat the Cowboys, 16-13 to win the professional football World Championship.19710117-FR-1971 Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images
CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Quarterback Brian Sipe #17 huddles with members of the offense including wide receivers Dave Logan #85 and Reggie Rucker #33 and running backs Greg Pruitt #34 and Mike Pruitt #43 during a game against the Los Angeles Rams at Municipal Stadium on November 26, 1978 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 9: Wide receiver Reggie Rucker #33 of the Cleveland Browns on the sideline during a game against the Oakland Raiders at Municipal Stadium on October 9, 1977 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Raiders defeated the Browns 26-10. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 26: Wide receiver Reggie Rucker #33 of the Cleveland Browns catches a pass against defensive back Pat Thomas #27 of the Los Angeles Rams at Municipal Stadium on November 26, 1978 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Reggie Rucker makes a catch in a 42 to 28 win over the Baltimore Colts on October 25, 1981 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Tim Culek/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Reggie Rucker (33) during the Browns 30-24 overtime victory over the Miami Dolphins on November 18, 1979 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Dennis Collins/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Rucker used money from Amer-I-Can and Cleveland Peacemakers to pay his mortgage, dry cleaning and groceries from 2011 to 2015.

He's also accused of withdrawing $48,000 at casino ATMS from the Amer-I-Can bank account, including more than $35,000 in 2014. Most of that money was used to pay a debt at a Las Vegas casino.

In one instance, Rucker found out the Peacemakers Alliance received $150,000 so he forwarded the email to a casino that he owed $20,000, asking if they would wait to collect money.

The Cleveland Foundation, which has worked with the alliance, released the following statement:

"We do not comment on criminal investigations. We look forward to continuing our support of the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance under the new leadership of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland."

Rucker is set to be arraigned in federal court on Feb. 24.

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