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Family cashed pension checks for 17 years after NFL player died

johnhelwig Getty Images

John Helwig was an NFL player who spent four seasons with the Bears in the 1950s. He died in 1994. But his NFL pension checks kept coming.

Helwig’s wife kept cashing the checks for 13 more years, until she died in 2007. Then his daughter took up the scam, cashing the checks for another four years until she was caught in 2011.

Now the daughter, Constance Helwig-Langlois, is set to be sentenced today after pleading guilty to fraud. She admits that she forged her father’s signature and collected about $70,000 from an NFL pension plan, the Associated Press reports. The total fraudulently taken from the pension fund by Helwig’s wife and daughter reportedly tops $200,000.

Helwig-Langlois is not expected to serve any prison time. Prosecutors are recommending a sentence of probation and six months in a halfway house.

Helwig (pictured wearing No. 80 at right) played his college football at Notre Dame and was an 11th round pick in the 1950 NFL draft.

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42 Responses to “Family cashed pension checks for 17 years after NFL player died”
  1. icdogg says: May 2, 2013 12:37 PM

    Wow. You’d think someone would be keeping track of this.

  2. rboutote says: May 2, 2013 12:38 PM

    I don’t know what I’m more disgusted by here… The family for doing this, or the NFL for not catching them for 17 years.

  3. snowman36 says: May 2, 2013 12:39 PM

    I promise you John Helwig is not rolling over in his grave. Heck, it doesn’t even matter to him. 7 billion dollar industry angry over $100,000.

    He probably suffered from CTE anyways so fair is fair

  4. ctiggs says: May 2, 2013 12:45 PM

    In all fairness , the pension should be transferred to the family after the player passes.

  5. dmartin17 says: May 2, 2013 12:49 PM

    I’m kind of surprised his pension was that high in the first place.

  6. dionoil says: May 2, 2013 12:49 PM

    That’s like 11,000 a year. Some scam. Also, his wife probably thought she was supposed to keep getting it.

  7. pats54 says: May 2, 2013 12:50 PM

    snowman: There’s this thing called integrity. America was built on it and it used to matter. Politicians lack it because the people who vote for them don’t care about it anymore. Thanks to you and people who share your lack of integrity, our country is broke and more people are on welfare/food stamps than ever. Apparently earning an honest living is asking too much these days.

  8. mputelli55 says: May 2, 2013 12:50 PM

    Dude sells pot..makes a hundred or so bucks..gets caught servs years in prison..person steals 200,000..servs no jail time…hmmm…

  9. 1phd says: May 2, 2013 12:59 PM

    No jail time because 90% of the population would have done the same thing. If the NFL is incompetent enough to keep sending me money, of course I’m going to take it and my defense would have been that it passes on the heirs, or at least that’s what I believed when I cashed it on his behalf – hardly fraud.

    Michael David Smith: And what would your defense be for the part about forging someone else’s signature?

  10. marvsleezy says: May 2, 2013 1:04 PM

    But, it is proof that these guys literally are FORGOTTEN by the NFL

  11. genericcommenter says: May 2, 2013 1:08 PM

    I have to admit I don’t know much about pensions. I doubt I will ever have access to one for any reason. I guess I figured it was normal for a pension to transfer to widows (or any surviving spouse) and/or perhaps minor children. I wouldn’t expect one to go to adult children and continue infinitely, of course. Not excusing fraud, but just wondering out loud on the economics of the wife cashing the checks.

  12. thejohnsmith1122 says: May 2, 2013 1:10 PM

    rboutote says:
    May 2, 2013 12:38 PM
    I don’t know what I’m more disgusted by here… The family for doing this, or the NFL for not catching them for 17 years.

    ——————————————-

    Seriously?

    I don’t know what I’m more disgusted with…that the family has been doing this for 17 years or the fact that you think everyone automatically knows when someone else dies.

  13. themostlogicalofvoices says: May 2, 2013 1:10 PM

    That comes out to about $11k a year.

    I’m not condoning stealing in any sense but I’m more astonished that the pension for a retired NFL player comes out to that much per year. I’m guessing that might cover copays for some of the medical sh*t these guys have to endure…..that is of course if they can even get coverage. Way to go NFL, you guys are just top notch.

  14. tremoluxman says: May 2, 2013 1:17 PM

    High pension? Not really. Divide $200,000 by 17 years and it comes out to less than $12,000 a year; a grand a month. That ain’t high living unless you live in Bangladesh.

  15. playbookofeli says: May 2, 2013 1:17 PM

    How is it not fraud if you cash a check made out to someone else by signing their name?

  16. dirtydrynn27 says: May 2, 2013 1:18 PM

    The NFL is at fault for this! If they kept their books in order,then somebody would`ve caught this years ago when the former player passed away

    All in All she got a slap on the wrist,especially if she doesnt have to pay restitution!

  17. tjacks7 says: May 2, 2013 1:20 PM

    It’s not like hundreds of millions of people get paid by the NFL.. How do they not keep track of this?

  18. bla bla bla says: May 2, 2013 1:27 PM

    1phd says:
    May 2, 2013 12:59 PM

    No jail time because 90% of the population would have done the same thing. If the NFL is incompetent enough to keep sending me money, of course I’m going to take it
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    PHD…? In what? Lying? Stealing? YOU are exactly what is wrong with this country. You’re a disgrace.

  19. patriotsdefense says: May 2, 2013 1:32 PM

    I don’t know how I feel about this. On one hand, yes of course the fraud is inexcusable. On the other, 32 rich owners with a $10 Billion sport built on the backs of men like Mr. Helwig should have an avenue to assist family members facing hardships.

    I guess the fact that jail time will be avoided is the NFL showing a least a little sympathy.

  20. chawk12thman says: May 2, 2013 1:35 PM

    What survivor benifits a spouse has should be addressed by the NFL, if it isn’t already. The widow may have been eligible to some of that 200000 if she had followed proper protical. However, the grown children have no standing and the charges are appropriate.

  21. formyministy says: May 2, 2013 1:36 PM

    themostlogicalofvoices says:
    May 2, 2013 1:10 PM
    That comes out to about $11k a year.
    I’m not condoning stealing in any sense but I’m more astonished that the pension for a retired NFL player comes out to that much per year. I’m guessing that might cover copays for some of the medical sh*t these guys have to endure…..that is of course if they can even get coverage. Way to go NFL, you guys are just top notch.
    —————
    dude played 4 years back in the ’50′s. in 1959 the average yearly income was $5,000. how do i get a job where i work there for four years and then make over $120,000 (his pension was more than double the average wage) for the NEXT 50 YEARS??? how are you in any way being “logical”??

  22. crosberries says: May 2, 2013 1:39 PM

    Shows what happens when the nfl has too much money to even worry about something as petty as $200,000

  23. PriorKnowledge says: May 2, 2013 1:41 PM

    And how would the NFL know that one of their 1000′s of pensioners died? Send them a letter every quarter asking if they are still alive? The wife and daughter are willing to forge father’s name and cash his checks, I think they can answer that letter.

    Why no jail time? She going to pay back the money?

  24. CKL says: May 2, 2013 1:41 PM

    themostlogicalofvoices says:
    May 2, 2013 1:10 PM
    That comes out to about $11k a year.

    I’m not condoning stealing in any sense but I’m more astonished that the pension for a retired NFL player comes out to that much per year. I’m guessing that might cover copays for some of the medical sh*t these guys have to endure…..that is of course if they can even get coverage. Way to go NFL, you guys are just top notch.
    ________________________________
    Pensions are a benefit, not an entitlement. They are like health insurance, vacation pay and sick days, not required, but perks some companies offer. Let’s not forget that even if an NFL player lasts 10 years in the league that puts him at roughly 35. Most of us at 35 have 30 more years of our working life left.

    I’m with some others, maybe hte wife felt it should have passed on, maybe not, More vetting needed there. Consequences for the daughter though should be she spends however many years she fraudulently cashed checks working for free for NFL charities for a certain number of hours. That’s ludicrous that she gets a slap on the wrist.

  25. dcapettini says: May 2, 2013 1:44 PM

    Some of you guys will sink to any occasion to bash the NFL. Maybe you have no idea what Social Security or the average working person’s pension is. I know I guy that has 3 pensions and makes less than $25k per year. The guy played for 4 years in the 50′s. His pension payments were far in excess of what he made in those 4 years. Also, how exactly do you propose that the NFL should determine whether a player has died or not? Don’t say the Social Security Administration, because they won’t tell you.

    BTW, I know a 1/2 dozen people that live on less than $1k per month Social Security. Should we raise their payments?

  26. istateyourname says: May 2, 2013 1:48 PM

    NFI, but it sounds 110% the NFL’s pension administrator’s fault for continuing to send the checks. I don’t know what they look like but if it doesn’t come with instructions on what to do if you die (check here if you are dead and return this form to: R. Goodell in NYC), I’m keeping daddy’s checks… people don’t know pension laws…The NFL is great, daddy’s checks are still comin’ after all these years, God bless em…

  27. alamba78 says: May 2, 2013 1:49 PM

    dionoil says:
    May 2, 2013 12:49 PM
    That’s like 11,000 a year. Some scam. Also, his wife probably thought she was supposed to keep getting it.

    Yea, maybe if she thought she was supposed to keep forging her husband’s signature. SMH.

  28. turfrage says: May 2, 2013 1:52 PM

    These guys weren’t earning big money back then so their pension is proportional to that. Plus the NFL pension fund is not a slush fund. It’s old and about obsolete anyway. Owners now provide 401k. Funny how some people always blame the league for everything. Find another sport. This family committed a CRIME. Period. Forgery.

  29. seaeagle707 says: May 2, 2013 1:53 PM

    He played for da Bears. He and his heirs should get “something” for those four years of mediocrity.

  30. vegasdestroyer says: May 2, 2013 2:10 PM

    If the NFL does not have a survivor benefit included in its player pension plan, maybe the NFL players’ union should get off its ass and demand one.

  31. getyourownname says: May 2, 2013 2:29 PM

    The sense of entitlement some people have to things that aren’t lawfully theirs, as long as they think they can get away with it, because someone else has more than they do, is pretty breathtaking.

    I’m talking about posters, not the player’s family, although their entitlement is remarkable too. Hey, why stop with the player’s kids, let the grandchildren and their heirs in perpetuity keep cashing those checks.

  32. onlysane1intheroom says: May 2, 2013 2:36 PM

    It may be only a grand a month, but the dude only played four years and played in the 1950s. Never thought it would be that high. That’s like a state worker’s pension!

  33. broncobrewer says: May 2, 2013 3:03 PM

    Where’s the part where she has to pay it back? At least here part on the scam. She should have to pay it back.

  34. andrewproughcfe says: May 2, 2013 3:13 PM

    Wonder how soon the prosecutors will announce the fraud charges against the NFLPA leadership, Goodell and Tagliabue for ripping off the former players of a meaningful retirement benefit for the past several decades.

  35. jpb12 says: May 2, 2013 3:16 PM

    I think the daughter should be forced to watch the Jets play all 16 games this year … plus the 4 pre-season.

    Signed: Fireman Ed.

  36. garyhd01 says: May 2, 2013 4:37 PM

    dionol, if she thought she was supposed to still be getting the checks why not have them send em in her name and btw forging hubby name and daughter forging daddys name should tell you they knew it was wrong now if the wife signed her name id get it

  37. filthymcnasty1 says: May 2, 2013 5:15 PM

    It’s Chicago. What do you expect?

    I’d bet he’s voted in every election since his passing too.

  38. melikefootball says: May 2, 2013 6:21 PM

    She should not even get probation. We allow how many millions of illegals in this country breaking laws each day and we don’t even notice them. The NFL surly can’t miss a few thousand dollars.

  39. mazblast says: May 2, 2013 6:21 PM

    Some pensions are for the person who earned the benefit only. Others are “joint and survivor”. It’s entirely possible that the widow didn’t know, and as long as the checks kept coming she may have ASSUMED that she was entitled to them. Yes, I know she should have checked with the pension plan administrator, but that may be assuming a level of intelligence beyond hers.

    The daughter should have known better. I don’t know of any pension that goes “three deep”, still paying someone after the original pensioner and a designated beneficiary die.

    I’m constantly amazed, though, at how many children of pensioners get upset when the old person’s pension checks stop after death, as if the kids are entitled to anything.

  40. gbpackman says: May 2, 2013 6:28 PM

    Pats54, you say “snowman: There’s this thing called integrity. America was built on it” I’m sure the indians were thinking the same thing when we got here.

  41. realfootballfan says: May 2, 2013 7:09 PM

    I love the idiots posting here like she was stealing the money from the government. The NFL is a private corporation, so who cares if they didn’t have their house in order. That’s the price they have to pay for being incompetent. It’s no skin off anybody’s back here.

  42. wnstonchill says: May 3, 2013 11:25 AM

    Isn’t it insane that our lovely government does these things on a daily basis, yet holds the public to a different standard? It’s wrong no matter how you look at it, just too bad more don’t practice what they preach!

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