(CNN) – Two-time Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis and two other former NFL players pleaded guilty for their roles in a nationwide health care benefits fraud scheme to submit false claims for payments totaling about US $. $ 3 million, the Justice Department said Tuesday.
Portis, Tamarick Vanover and Robert McCune admitted to participating in a scheme to defraud the league’s retiree health care benefit plan, which provides tax-free reimbursement to former players and their families for out-of-pocket medical expenses not covered by the sure, the department said.
Prosecutors said McCune, who played eight games in four NFL seasons, was the mastermind.
“McCune orchestrated the fraud nationwide, which resulted in approximately $ 2.9 million in false and fraudulent claims being submitted to the Plan and the Plan paid approximately $ 2.5 million in those claims between June 2017 and April 2017. 2018, “the Justice Department said.
To date, 15 former players have pleaded guilty to charges related to the scheme, prosecutors said.
McCune, 40, pleaded guilty to multiple charges on Aug. 24. The former supporter who was on the lists of Baltimore, Miami and Washington, will be sentenced on November 19.
McCune 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 wire fraud. aggravated identity.
Portis, 40, and Vanover, 47, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to commit health care fraud and agreed to pay full restitution to the health plan.
Portis, who reportedly made more than $ 43.1 million during his nine-year career with Denver and Washington, was known for wearing colorful suits, wigs and oversized sunglasses in media interviews. But after retiring with a record of nearly 10,000 rushing yards, he filed for bankruptcy and became one of a surprising number of former NFL players who went bankrupt after their playing careers.
Portis will be sentenced on January 6, according to forecasts.
Vanover, who spent five seasons as a kick returner and wide receiver with Kansas City and one with San Diego, is scheduled to be sentenced on January 22.
Each faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
According to the Justice Department press release, Portis and Vanover pleaded guilty two days after a trial against them resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial on certain charges against Vanover. A new trial on the charges against Portis and Vanover had been scheduled to begin Tuesday.
McCune, the third defendant, pleaded guilty to all charges against him on the second day of the trial.
CNN has reached out to attorneys for the three men, but has not received a response.
How the plan supposedly worked
The plan, which lasted from June 2017 to December 2018, generated more than $ 3.9 million in false and fraudulent claims, of which the plan paid more than $ 3.4 million, prosecutors said in 2019.
The NFL Players Health Reimbursement Account Gene Upshaw Plan was established as part of the 2006 collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
According to the allegations, the former players submitted false claims for expensive equipment, including hyperbaric oxygen chambers, ultrasound machines designed for a doctor’s office to perform women’s health exams, and electromagnetic therapy devices for horses.
The claims ranged from about $ 40,000 to $ 50,000 each, prosecutors said. They were based on fabricated bills, prescriptions and medical letters, prosecutors said.
Additionally, some defendants recruited other retired players to participate in the scheme in exchange for bribes ranging from a few thousand dollars to $ 10,000 or more per claim, prosecutors said.
McCune and Buckhalter even called the health benefits plan’s hotline and posed as other players to check on the status of claims, the Justice Department said in 2019.
Health insurance company Cigna pointed to anomalies in the types of claims being filed and referred the fraud to federal investigators, then-Deputy Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said.
CNN’s Eric Levenson and Jill Martin contributed to this report.