Former NFL player Kenbrell Thompkins pleads guilty to COVID-19 relief fraud

The South Florida native is best known for his time with the New England Patriots in the 2013-2014 season.

Former NFL wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins faces up to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges of identity theft and COVID-19 relief fraud.

The South Florida native started his pro football career with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2013, but is best known for his time with the New England Patriots in the 2013-2014 season. As reported by ESPN, Thompkins pleaded guilty this week to “stealing other people’s identities to fraudulently obtain COVID-19 related unemployment insurance benefits,” per the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

“Thompkins admitted that from Aug. 16, 2020 through Sept. 25, 2020, he used the social security numbers and other protected personal information of unsuspecting Florida residents to obtain prepaid unemployment insurance debit cards from California and to withdraw thousands of dollars from such cards,” the statement reads .

According to The Associated Press, the scheme involved around $300,000 in funds, of which Thompkins reportedly pocketed about $230,000. He pled guilty to one count of unauthorized access device fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. 

Thompkins will be sentenced on Jan. 6, 2022, in Miami. He faces up to 12 years in prison.

Cincinnati Bengals v New England Patriots
Kenbrell Thompkins (Getty Images)

Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act in March 2020 to help mitigate the negative economic impacts of COVID-19. The benefits include 39 weeks of financial aid to qualifying people who were unemployed or unable to work due to pandemic-related reasons. Since the passing of the relief package, many have committed fraud to obtain millions in relief aid; several have been arrested and charged.

Thompkins’ case comes a year after former Jets wide receiver Josh Bellamy was charged and arrested in 2020 for allegedly obtaining $1.2 million in a COVID-19 relief fraud scheme. The U.S. Department of Justice alleges that the 31-year-old used money earmarked for coronavirus relief for his own benefit. The complaint against him listed wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud.

According to the government, he sought to file fraudulent loan applications seeking more than $24 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The former Jets wide receiver and 10 others allegedly used money meant for coronavirus relief on items such as luxury items from Gucci and Dior.

Thompkins’ case comes amid reports that 18 former NBA players have been charged with defrauding the league’s health and welfare benefit plan out of about $4 million, according to an indictment. The ex-players engaged in a widespread scheme to defraud the plan by submitting false and fraudulent claims to get reimbursed for medical and dental expenses that were never actually incurred.

The 18 players were among 19 individuals charged in the indictment. It said that the scheme was carried out from at least 2017 to 2020, when the plan received false claims totaling about $3.9 million. Of that, the defendants received about $2.5 million in fraudulent proceeds.

This article contains additional reproting from Stephanie Guerilus and the Associated Press.

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