Over a Dozen Former NFL Stars Cop to $3.9 M Scheme to Defraud NFL Health Plan, Face Jail Time

Written by: Larry Epstein

The feds are throwing the red flag at some high-profile ex-NFL players, charging the ballers in an alleged nationwide scheme to defraud the league’s benefits programs for retirees.

The accused players form a shocking list of elite former stars. The names include former Denver Broncos and Washington running back, Clinton Portis – and former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn. Portis rushed for nearly 10,000 yards in his 9-year career, scored 75 touchdowns, and made two pro bowls. Who could forget December of 2003, when Portis ripped off 218 yards and five TDs against the Chiefs – which translated into 54 fantasy points? If you had him on your team that week – you won.

Horn played the bulk of his 12-year career with the Saints, wracking up 603 career receptions, 8,874 receiving yards, 58 TDs, and he made the pro bowl four times.  The other players charged are: alleged ringleader, Robert McCune, who played linebacker for Washington and the Baltimore Ravens for three years, former Chiefs speedster Tamarick Vanover, former 10-year Washington and Niners CB Carlos Rogers –  who also made the pro bowl, former Eagles RB Correll Buckhalter, former Washington DB John Eubanks, one-time DB Ceandris “CC” Brown, who started for the Houston Texans and also played for the Jets and the Lions, former Giants and St Louis Rams DB James Butler… and several others.

In all, 15 former players have pleaded guilty, including Portis, McCune and Vanover. The Justice Department says McCune orchestrated the whole scheme which resulted in $2.9 million in fraudulent claims to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan. DOJ says Vanover recruited three other retirees, which resulted in $159,510 paid out, and the DoJ also says Portis alone raked in nearly $100,000 in benefits in just two months.

The feds say the alleged schemers put in claims for expensive and exotic equipment  like “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 horses.” But, according to the feds, those guys took the money and no equipment was ever delivered.

Portis and Vanover pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and they’ve agreed to pay full restitution to the plan. McCune entered a guilty plea for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, plus three counts of identity theft.

The DoJ says all 12 of the other defendants have also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud: 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 passed away in June 2020.

The players face a maximum of ten years in prison each but this week Prosecutors asked a federal judge to grant them light prison sentences citing their contrition relative to a co-conspirator. Prosecutors said six to thirty months would be appropriate for several of the defendants including Butler, Bennett, Pruitt and a few others.