Former NFL wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who caught one of the most memorable touchdown passes in recent Patriots history in a 2013 win over the Saints, was indicted earlier this month by the US attorney’s office in the Southern District of Florida for allegedly stealing identities and defrauding the state of California out of $300,000 in unemployment insurance funds.
Thompkins, 32, was charged with one count of access device fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, and two counts of aggravated identity theft, which carry a penalty of two mandatory years imprisonment. He is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Miami.
The US attorney’s office alleges that Thompkins, who lives in Aventura, Fla., used numerous stolen identities of Florida residents last August and September to apply online for unemployment insurance from California. The funds were sent via Bank of America debit cards, and authorities allege that Thompkins withdrew approximately $230,000 of the $300,000 from ATMs across Miami-Dade County.
Authorities identified Thompkins, 32, withdrawing funds from ATM machines in September via security cameras and distinctive tattoos on his forearm. In January, a search of Thompkins’s apartment found multiple envelopes sent from the state of California addressed to the names of the identities that were stolen.
Thompkins played in 33 NFL games from 2013-15, suiting up for the Patriots, Raiders, and Jets. The Patriots discovered him as an undrafted rookie out of Cincinnati, and Thompkins went on to catch 70 passes for 893 yards and four touchdowns in his three-year NFL career.
His best season was his rookie year of 2013, when he caught 32 passes for 466 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games. He produced one of the most memorable highlights of the Tom Brady era, catching a 17-yard touchdown with just 10 seconds remaining to cap an improbable 30-27 comeback win over the Saints.
But Thompkins stopped producing late in the 2013 season, and was released by the Patriots in the middle of the 2014 season. He had a brief second stint with the Patriots on their practice squad in 2015, and also bounced between the Raiders and Jets over three seasons. Thompkins’s last NFL experience was with the Jets in training camp in 2017, and he spent the 2018 season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.
The arrest is just the latest bout of legal trouble for Thompkins, who was arrested seven times between ages 15-18, including charges of armed robbery and intent to sell cocaine. Thompson starred on the football field at Miami-Northwestern High, yet he was expelled from school three times, and his legal issues scared away most college football programs.
Thompkins eventually found a spot at El Camino College in Torrance, Calif., where in two seasons he became the team’s all-time leading receiver. That led to an opportunity at the University of Cincinnati, whose coach, Butch Jones, previously coached NFL receiver Antonio Brown, who is Thompkins’s cousin. Thompkins thrived for two seasons in Cincinnati, and graduated with a degree in criminal justice.
Brown, an 11-year NFL veteran with his own checkered legal history, served as Thompkins’s mentor.
“One day we talked about our futures,” Brown said in 2013. “I’d gone to prep school and got my life together. His little brother Kendal had just got a scholarship to the University of Miami. It helped seeing others who he loved have success around him. He understood what he was capable of. All those things played a factor and motivated him.”
Six years after his arrest for armed robbery and cocaine charges, Thompkins found himself catching passes from Brady.
“It’s humbling,” Thompkins said in 2013. “It’s my dream and I’m living in the moment. I’m trying not to look in my rearview mirror. I never doubted myself and the whole sport of football. I don’t only love football, but I feel like I need football in my life. That’s how I approach it.”