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:
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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