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Former NFL running back Clinton Portis pleads guilty in scheme to defraud league health plan

The nationwide fraud involving multiple former NFL players resulted in payouts of about $2.5 million from June 2017 to April 2018, federal officials said.
Former Washington Football Team running back Clinton Portis on the sidelines prior to an NFL preseason game on Aug. 15, 2019, at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
Former Washington Football Team running back Clinton Portis on the sidelines before a preseason game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., on Aug. 15, 2019.Lee Coleman / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images file

Former NFL running back Clinton Portis pleaded guilty to defrauding a health care program for retired players and their families, federal officials said Tuesday, part of a nationwide scheme that netted nearly $2.5 million in fraudulent claims.

Portis, 40, of Fort Mill, South Carolina, a leading rusher for the Denver Broncos and the Washington Football Team in the 2000s, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. He agreed to pay full restitution, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Officials said 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."

Portis' co-defendant, officials said, is former NFL wide receiver Tamarick Vanover, 47, of Tallahassee, Florida. Vanover also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and agreed to pay full restitution.

Vanover recruited three other former NFL players and helped them bring fraudulent claims, obtaining $159,510 for medical equipment that was never provided, officials said.

A third defendant, former NFL linebacker Robert McCune, 40, of Riverdale, Georgia, pleaded guilty to multiple charges on Aug. 24, officials said. They included 13 counts of health care fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft, officials said.

McCune, officials said, "orchestrated the nationwide fraud."

The former NFL players acknowledged that they participated in a scheme to defraud the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan.

The program, which was established by the NFL's 2006 collective bargaining agreement, provided for tax-free reimbursement of out-of-pocket medical care expenses incurred by former players, their spouses and their dependents that were not covered by insurance.

The health care plan covered up to $350,000 per player.

Portis and Vanover pleaded guilty two days after a trial ended in a hung jury and a mistrial on certain counts against Vanover, officials said. A retrial in the case against Portis and Vanover, officials said, had been scheduled to begin Tuesday.

The scheme "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," authorities said.

Attorneys for Portis, Vanover and McCune could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Portis, Vanover and McCune were among 10 defendants indicted in U.S. District Court for Eastern Kentucky in December 2019, officials said. Since the indictment, five more retired NFL players have been charged. A total of 15 defendants, officials said, have pleaded guilty.

Portis is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 6; Vanover's sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 22. They both face up to 10 years in prison, officials said.

McCune's sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 19, officials said.

Portis, a two-time Pro Bowler, was drafted by the Broncos in 2002 and played two seasons in Denver, then went on to spend seven seasons with the Washington franchise. Vanover spent most of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs. McCune had short stints with multiple teams.