Eric Leak, former NC State football player, receives 18 month prison sentence for Medicaid fraud scheme

Eric Leak played wide reciver for N.C. State from 1997 to 2000.
Eric Leak played wide reciver for N.C. State from 1997 to 2000. 1999 NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Former N.C. State football player Eric Leak is heading to federal prison for 18 months under terms of a plea agreement on federal bribery and money laundering charges.

Charged for his role in a Medicaid fraud scheme, Leak agreed to plead guilty in March. His sentence was handed down during a hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney Matthew Martin said Friday.

In addition to his jail term, Leak must pay a $5,000 fine in addition to $420,115 in restitution. He’ll also be under three years of supervised release once he’s out of prison.

Leak was charged for his actions while he served as executive director of Nature’s Reflections, a Durham mental health services provider from 2011-14. He faced a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on bribery charges and 10 years in prison and $250,000 on the money laundering charge.

According to an IRS document from 2015, investigations by the IRS and the Medicaid Investigations Division showed Leak engaged in a “pervasive scheme” to defraud North Carolina’s Medicaid program.

In court documents filed in relation to Leak’s plea agreement, U.S. Attorney Matthew Martin described the scheme that began in 2011. Witness Carlos Brown, who also faces federal charges, said he recruited patients for Nature’s Reflections and, in turn, received a portion of the payment the company received from Medicaid.

Between October 2011 and March 2013, Brown received $393,000 from Nature’s Reflections for his referrals.

The government also has two other witnesses, referenced only by their initials in court documents, who can testify they had agreements with Leak to provide patients in return for payments. In 2013, Nature’s Reflections paid one witness $18,655 for referrals and the other $8,450.

Federal law prohibits payments for referrals in relation with federals programs such as Medicaid.

In June, former social worker Duke Ellington Ellis was sentenced to 13 months in prison and ordered to repay more than $1 million for health care fraud and false medical entries charges.

Ellis was alleged to have forged signatures of a licensed psychologist on fraudulent orders for mental health services from 2011 to 2013 while working with Leak.

In November 2011, N.C. State ordered Leak to disassociate himself from the university for 10 years after the NCAA said Leak had provided improper benefits to basketball players C.J. Leslie and Tracy Smith.

Leslie, who received $410 of impermissible benefits, was suspended for three games in the 2011-12 basketball season.

Leak later told The News & Observer that he had contacted former N.C. State football standout David Amerson in June 2012. The university then requested that Leak not contact any other N.C. State athlete while also asking the Secretary of State’s office to determine whether Leak was violating the state’s athlete agent act.

According to 2015 IRS documents, Leak illegally obtained $8.7 million in Medicaid funds through Nature’s Reflections from 2012-14 and then siphoned more than $200,000 to his sports management company, Hot Shot Sports.

That document also says Leak purchased a 2013 Porsche Panamera worth more than $137,000 for Leslie in April 2013.

A state investigation of Leak, which began in December 2013, uncovered evidence that he provided improper benefits to an unnamed University of North Carolina athlete.

An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.