Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Jul 2005

Did Little Train Commit Big Fraud?

I always liked Lionel "Little Train" James when he played with the Chargers. I don't like him so much after reading this article. James just lost a lawsuit against the Chiefs over whether they owed him disability payments, as he worked for the Chiefs as an assistant coach before he was diagnosed with acute necrotizing pancreatitis. Here are some details, as reported by Dan Margolies:

James was making $7,917 per month with the Chiefs when on Jan. 11, 1999, he went to an emergency room complaining of abdominal pain and nausea. He told doctors that his symptoms began the day after “a fairly heavy alcohol binge.� He was discharged from the hospital on Feb. 23, 1999. He said he couldn't work and went on disability, provided by Fortis Benefits Insurance Co.

In March 2001, James showed up using a crutch for an evaluation requested by Fortis. Later that day, a therapist contacted a Fortis affiliate and said James had worked the night before without a crutch as a coach for the XFL Birmingham Thunderbolts. Fortis did surveillance of James at another game and saw him walking up and down the sidelines and bending over with his hands on his knees. James later said that he was a part-time employee earning a base salary of $5,000. But Fortis discovered that James had also worked for the Birmingham Steeldogs, an Arena Football League team, from January 2000 through August 2000 and made $500 a week. Fortis then denied his disability payments.

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Posted by: Michael David Smith on 05 Jul 2005

5 comments, Last at 05 Jul 2005, 9:13pm by pcs


by B (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 3:20pm

All I know is if the insurance company hired Mike Brady as thier lawyer, Little Train wouldn't have gotten away with the scam in the first place.

by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 4:08pm

Yep, Mike Brady would've just dropped his briefcase on a table, Lionel James would have turned around, and everyone would have seen that his neck injury was bogus.

by senser81 (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 4:08pm

Disagree. You could make solid case arguing that Kansas City's 1998 regular season performance drove Little Train to drink.

by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 4:36pm

What was James being paid $8k/month for?

by pcs (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 9:13pm

Mike Brady! Awesome. I feel for the guy, though: He was at an XFL game, so he could reasonably assume no one was going to see him.