Ex-wide receiver Rucker accused of theft, wire fraud

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Federal authorities allege that former NFL wide receiver and broadcaster Reggie Rucker used charitable donations intended for Hall of Famer Jim Brown’s Amer-I-Can foundation to pay gambling debts and personal expenses.

Rucker was charged Tuesday with one count of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to law enforcement.

The criminal information filing indicates that Rucker, 68, withdrew more than $500,000 from the Amer-I-Can account between 2011 and February 2015, when federal investigators interviewed him. That included $38,000 withdrawn from casino ATMs and tens of thousands of dollars he used to pay off gambling debts.

“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. “He stole from the very violence interrupters he so publicly 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.”

Brown is the founder of Amer-I-Can, a program that supports inner-city youth. Rucker worked with Brown on that and other charitable and youth endeavors. Cleveland.com listed Rucker as the founder of the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance.

Rucker played the final seven seasons of his 12-year NFL career with the Browns. He also played for the Patriots, Cowboys and Giants. He worked as a broadcaster after his playing career and called NFL games on NBC from 1983-88.