Clinton Portis among retired NFL players facing federal fraud charges

Clinton Portis, a former Pro Bowl running back, is among several former NFL players who are facing federal charges in an alleged scheme to defraud the league’s health care program for retired players.

Portis, Carlos Rogers, Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt are among the players charged by the Justice Department.

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The government said it is also intending to charge Joe Horn and Reche Caldwell with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

The scheme targeted the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan for reimbursement, which was established in 2006 to provide tax-free reimbursement of medical expenses that were not covered by insurance and that were incurred by former players, their wives and any dependents.

More than $3.9 million in fraudulent medical claims were submitted to the plan and more than $3.4 million was paid out between June 2017 and June 2018, according to charging documents.

“The defendants are alleged to have developed and executed a fraudulent scheme to undermine a health care benefit plan established by the NFL – one established to help their former teammates and colleagues pay for legitimate medical expenses,” U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr., for the Eastern District of Kentucky, said in a Justice Department news release. “The defendants allegedly submitted false claims to the plan and obtained money for expensive medical equipment that was never purchased or received, depriving that plan of valuable resources to help others meet their medical needs.”

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Clinton Portis #26 of the Washington Redskins watches the action against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on October 3, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Clinton Portis #26 of the Washington Redskins watches the action against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on October 3, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

The scheme involved submissions of fake claims that involved expensive medical equipment ranging between $40,000 and $50,000 for each claim, officials said. The medical equipment included “hyperbaric oxygen chambers, cryotherapy machines, ultrasound machines designed for use by a doctor’s office to conduct women’s health examinations and electromagnetic therapy devices designed for use on a horse.”

McCune, Eubans, Vanover, Buckhalter, Rogers and others allegedly recruited other players into the scheme by offering to submit the false claims for kickbacks and bribes, officials said. The bribes and kickbacks ranged from a few thousand dollars to up to $10,000 per claim.

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The former players would allegedly fabricate supporting documentation for the claims. McCune and Buckhalter would allegedly call a telephone number provided by the plan and impersonated players in order to check the status of the fraudulent claims.

“This investigation serves as an illustration of the rampant and deliberate scams against health care plans occurring daily throughout the country,” FBI Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro said in the news release. “In this case, 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. Over 20 FBI field offices participated in this investigation, which demonstrates the level of commitment we have to rooting out this type of fraud.”

Portis, Brown, Butler and Bennett were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, one count of wire fraud and one count of health care fraud.

McCune was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, nine counts of wire fraud and nine counts of health care fraud.

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Eubanks, Vanover and Rogers were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, two counts of wire fraud and two counts of health care fraud.

Buckhalter and Pruitt were charged with one county of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud.