1 of 2 | Clinton Portis is to be sentenced Jan. 6 when he faces up to 10 years in prison for charges stemming from his involvement in a scheme to defraud the NFL's healthcare program for retired players and their families. File Photo by BIll Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Former running back Clinton Portis and two other retired NFL players have pleaded guilty for their involvement in a nationwide scheme to defraud the league's healthcare benefit program of millions of dollars, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Portis, 40, of Fort Mill, S.C., and his co-defendant Tamarick Vanover, 47, of Tallahassee, Fla., pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Robert McCune, 40, of Riverdale, Ga., pleaded guilty to a slew of charges, including conspiracy to commit wire and healthcare fraud, 13 counts of healthcare fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft.
Prosecutors said McCune, a linebacker who played four seasons in the NFL, was the mastermind behind the scheme that saw players defraud the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which was established in 2006 to provide retired players and their families with tax-free reimbursement for out-of-pocket medical care expenses up to a maximum of $350,000 per player.
Some $2.5 million was gained through players submitting false claims to the plan between June 2017 and April 2018. Fifteen former players have so far pled guilty for their involvement in the scheme.
According to court documents, Portis, who played in the NFL for nine seasons, obtained nearly $100,000 in benefits from the plan for expensive medical equipment that he never received.
Prosecutors also accused Vanover, who played for the Kanas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, of recruiting three other former players into the scheme and assisting them in filing false claims, netting nearly $160,000.
The three were initially charged along with seven others in a December 2019 indictment, which was followed by five additional former players being charged in July of last year.
FBI Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the Miami Field Office described the crime when the charges were first announced as an example of the "rampant and deliberate scams" that target healthcare plans in the country.
"These fraudsters pocketed money from the Gene Upshaw National Football League Health Reimbursement Account Plan that was intended for former NFL players who are ill or infirm," he said.
The Justice Department said Portis and Vanover pleaded guilty two days after their trial resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial on certain counts against Vanover while McCune pleaded guilty to all charges on the second day of the trial.
McCune is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 19, when he faces a maximum 20 years imprisonment on the conspiracy charge, 10 years for each healthcare fraud count, 20 years for each wire fraud count and two years for each identity theft count.
Portis is to be sentenced on Jan. 6 and Vanover on Jan. 22. Both face up to 10 years in prison when they are separately sentenced early next year