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Final NFL Players Plead Guilty to Health Care Fraud Conspiracy

Sept. 7, 2021, 2:04 PM

Former NFL players Clinton Portis and Tamarick Vanover are likely facing prison time after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.

The players entered their pleas in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky Sept. 3 after a jury failed to reach a verdict against Portis and the court granted Vanover a mistrial.

Portis and Vanover were the final remaining defendants charged with criminal counts stemming from a scheme to defraud a health-care program for retired players, after the other 11 pleaded guilty.

The government alleges the players cheated the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan out of millions of dollars by faking the purchase of expensive medical equipment, like hyperbaric oxygen chambers and ultrasound machines.

Prosecutors say the players submitted more than $3.9 million in false reimbursement claims to the plan in 2017 and 2018.

The jury Sept. 1 determined they were deadlocked on Portis’ guilt. The jury found Vanover guilty on some counts, but Judge Karen K. Caldwell overturned the verdict.

“The court conducted an ex parte hearing with Juror No. 214, after publishing the jury verdict as to defendant Tamarick Vanover,” Caldwell said. “Defense counsel for Tamarick Vanover made a motion for a mistrial and the court granted the motion, without objection from the government,” she said.

Former NFL linebacker Robert McCune pleaded guilty to multiple counts in the case on Aug. 24.

Antwan Odom, Darrell Reid, Anthony Montgomery, Etric Pruitt, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, John Eubanks, Fredrick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter, and Carlos Rogers entered guilty pleas in 2020.

To date, only Brown has been sentenced. The court in June ordered him to serve one year and a day and to pay $87,000 in restitution.

Like Brown, Portis and Vanover pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. The sentencing guidelines for Portis and Vanover are higher than for Brown because the government alleges the amount of loss attributable to them is higher.

Portis stipulated to $99,000 in restitution and Vanover agreed to pay $159,000. Vanover’s agreement also calls for a sentencing increase for an “aggravating role.”

The maximum sentence is 10 years prison and a $250,000 fine.

Portis was a running back for the Denver Broncos from 2002 until 2004, when he signed with the Washington football team, where he played until retiring in 2010 with just under 10,000 career yards rushing.

Vanover was a wide receiver and returned punts and kickoffs for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1995 until 1999. He played one year for the San Diego Chargers in 2002.

Baker Botts LLP and Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC represent Portis.

Nichols Walter PLLC represents Vanover.

The case is United States v. McCune, E.D. Ky., No. 19-cr-00206, 9/3/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at; Patrick L. Gregory at