- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2021

More than a dozen former NFL players, including former star running back Clinton Portis, have pleaded guilty to federal charges linked to a multimillion-dollar nationwide scheme to defraud a health care benefit program.

The most recent guilty pleas came within the last three weeks from Robert McCune, 40, of Georgia, Tamarick Vanover, 47, of Florida and Portis, 40, of South Carolina.

All three pleaded guilty to submitting false claims to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan for medical equipment that was not actually provided.

Mr. McCune admitted he received nearly $2.5 million for orchestrating the scheme. He 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. He faces a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison and is set to be sentenced on Nov. 19.

Meanwhile, Mr. Vanover said he received $159,510 for recruiting three other former NFL players into the scheme and helping them submit false claims and Mr. Portis admitted he received $99,264 for submitting false claims.

Both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and agreed to pay restitution to the plan. They each face up to 10 years in prison and are scheduled to be sentenced in January.

The plan, which was established in 2006 as part of a collective bargaining agreement, allowed former players, their spouses and dependents to receive up to $350,000 per player for out-of-pocket medical expenses not covered by insurance.

Federal prosecutors initially indicted all three former players in 2019, along with seven others, in the U.S. Eastern District Court of Kentucky. Five more former players were indicted since then, bringing the total to 15.

All of the players have since pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, including: 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 died in June 2020.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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