A former NFL player has been arrested for allegedly staging a fake hate crime to meet the eligibility criteria for an insurance payout.
Georgia business owner and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL player Edawn Coughman, 31, is accused of destroying two of his own restaurants to stage a hate crime.
A witness reported a "burglary in progress" after seeing a man damaging local businesses Crate and Bake Restaurant and Coughman's Creamery on Wednesday night (local time).
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When Gwinnett County Police responded to the call, they found swastikas, 'MAGA', 'monkey' and other derogatory racial slurs scrawled across the walls of the businesses in black spray paint.
"Several booth cushions were sliced open. They also found broken mirrors, cut wires, and a damaged video surveillance system. The smell of spray paint was very fresh," said a Gwinnett County news release.
"A local business owner is facing criminal charges after destroying his business in an attempt to look like a burglary."
The witness told officers the suspect was driving a Chevrolet Silverado with no license plate. The vehicle was spotted by police soon after, with Coughman behind the wheel.
Several TVs were visible inside the truck, still attached to brackets with damaged drywall.
Coughman told the officers he had contacted his insurance company instead of local police after realising his businesses had been robbed earlier in the day. Police obtained a search warrant for Coughman's car on Thursday.
Officers discovered a yellow crow bar and cans of black spray paint in the vehicle.
"It appears as though Edawn conjured a premeditated plan to damage his own property, attempt to make it appear as a hate crime, file a claim with his insurance company, and sell off the undamaged appliances and electronics," said the news release.
Coughman has been charged with the false report of a crime, insurance fraud and concealing a license plate, but has since bonded out of jail.
In February, US actor and Empire star Jussie Smollett was accused of faking a hate crime "to further his own career", according to Chicago police.
The 36-year-old claimed he was brutally attacked with chemicals and a rope by Donald Trump supporters in January. He was later indicted for allegedly paying two brothers to stage a hate crime assault and for filing a false police report.
All charges were dropped against Smollett in March.