Highlighted by former star running back Clinton Portis, a trio of NFL players who were part of a group of 10 that was charged in 2019 with taking part in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud the league’s health care benefit program by submitting false claims for medical equipment have pleaded guilty.
Portis, Tamarick Vanover and Robert McCune admitted to participating in a scheme to defraud the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan (the Plan), which was established as part of the NFL’s 2006 collective bargaining agreement to provide tax-free reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical care expenses that were incurred by former players, their spouses and dependents (up to a maximum of $350,000 per player) that were not covered by insurance.
Orchestrated by McCune, the nationwide fraud resulted in approximately $2.9 million in false and fraudulent claims being submitted to the Plan and the Plan paying out approximately $2.5 million on those claims between June 2017 and April 2018, according to The Justice Department. According to court documents, Portis fraudulently obtained $99,264 in benefits for expensive medical equipment that was not actually provided.
Scheduled to be sentenced in January, Portis and Vanover each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and have already agreed to pay full restitution to the Plan. Set to be sentenced in November, McCune is facing a much stricter penalty for masterminding the scheme that could end up effectively being life 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,” per the DOJ. “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.”
Portis, 40, was a second-round pick of the Broncos in 2002 and won AP Offensive Rookie of the Year before going on to start for Washington. The two-time Pro Bowler played 113 games with Denver and Washington from 2002-2010. McCune, 42, was a 2005 fifth-round draft pick who played eight NFL games at linebacker with Washington and Baltimore, while Vanover, 47, played 77 games at receiver for the Chiefs and Chargers after being taken in the third round of the 1995 draft by Kansas City.
Multiple other retired players who were charged in the scheme, including Joe Horn, Correll Buckhalter, Carlos Rogers, John Eubanks, Antwan Odom, Darrell Reid, Anthony Montgomery, Fredrick Bennett, and Donald “Reche” Caldwell (who passed away in June 2020), already pleaded guilty.