Three former National Football League (NFL) players have pleaded guilty for their roles in a nationwide scheme to defraud a health care benefit program for retired NFL players, bringing the total to 15 defendants have pleaded guilty in connection with this scheme.
Clinton Portis, 40, of Fort Mill, South Carolina, and Tamarick Vanover, 47, of Tallahassee, Florida, pleaded guilty on Friday, Sept. 3. Robert McCune, 40, of Riverdale, Georgia, pleaded guilty on Aug. 24.
The former players admitted to participating in a scheme to defraud the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which was established pursuant to a 2006 collective bargaining agreement and provided for tax-free reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical care expenses that were not covered by insurance, and that were incurred by former players, their spouses, and their dependents – up to a maximum of $350,000 per player.
According to court documents, Portis caused the submission of false and fraudulent claims to the plan on his behalf over a two-month period, obtaining $99,264 in benefits for expensive medical equipment that was not actually provided.
Vanover recruited three other former NFL players into the fraudulent scheme and assisted them in causing false and fraudulent claims to be submitted to the plan, obtaining $159,510 for expensive medical equipment that was not actually provided.
McCune orchestrated the nationwide fraud, which resulted in approximately $2.9 million in false and fraudulent claims being submitted to the plan, which paid out approximately $2.5 million on those claims between June 2017 and April 2018.
Portis and Vanover pleaded guilty two days after a trial against them resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial on certain counts against Vanover. McCune, the third defendant in that trial, pleaded guilty to all charges against him on the second day of trial.
A retrial on the charges against Portis and Vanover had been scheduled to begin Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
Portis and Vanover were originally indicted, along with McCune and seven other defendants, in the Eastern District of Kentucky in December 2019 for their roles in the fraud. Since the initial charges were announced, five additional retired NFL players were charged in the scheme.
All 12 of the other defendants charged have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud: Joseph Horn, Correll Buckhalter, Carlos Rogers, James Butler, Etric Pruitt, Ceandris Brown, John Eubanks, Antwan Odom, Darrell Reid, Anthony Montgomery, Fredrick Bennett, and Donald “Reche” Caldwell, who passed away in June 2020.
Portis played nine seasons in the NFL, from 2002 through 2010, as a running back who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in six of those years. Portis earned a total amount of $43.1 million salary from his NFL career, but he lost his entire fortune and filed for bankruptcy in December 2015, when he listed $5 million in personal debts.
Vanover’s NFL career Kansas City Chiefs was cut short when he was sentenced to four months’ confinement for his part in separate drug and car-theft rings after he pleaded guilty in February 2000, to aiding and abetting the sale of a stolen sport utility vehicle that crossed state lines, a crime he later acknowledged was aimed at scoring money for a drug buy.
The San Diego Chargers gave Vanover a second chance when they signed the veteran wide receiver to a one-year $525,000 contract in 2002, and his net worth is estimated at $1.9 million.
McCune is a linebacker who played in eight games in fives seasons with the Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and the Calgary Stampeders. His net worth is $1.1 million.
McCune could be facing life in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, 13 counts of health care fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft. He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 19.
The DOJ said McCune orchestrated the scheme that resulted in approximately $2.9 million worth of false and fraudulent claims being filed and $2.5 million paid out between June 2017 and April 2018.
Portis is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 6 and Vanover on Jan. 22.
Football player salaries range significantly. At the low end, NFL players make $400,000-$600,000 a year. At the highest level, players can make $50 million or more. The National Football League salary cap is now $208 million.
Portis and Vanover pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and agreed to pay full restitution to the Plan. Portis is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 6, 2022, and Vanover is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 22, 2022. They each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
McCune pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, 13 counts of health care fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud, and three counts of aggravated identity theft. McCune is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 19. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, 10 years for each count of health care fraud, 20 years for each count of wire fraud, and two years for each count of aggravated identity theft.
A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Carlton S. Shier IV for the Eastern District of Kentucky; and Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office made the announcement.
This case was investigated by the FBI and included efforts by various FBI Field Offices and Resident Agencies, including Augusta, Georgia; Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama; Cleveland, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Columbia, South Carolina; Dallas and Houston, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Jackson, Mississippi; Lexington, Kentucky; New Orleans, Louisiana; Miami, Jacksonville, and Tampa, Florida; Newark, New Jersey; Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, and Newport Beach, California; Phoenix, Arizona; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Washington, D.C.