A group of former NFL players were charged by the Department of Justice for “developing and executing a healthcare fraud scheme designed to undermine the Gene Upshaw Healthcare Benefit Plan” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski and the DOJ announced on Thursday morning. Ex-Redskins running back Clinton Portis headlines a large group of former NFL players who are were charged in the Eastern District of Kentucky on Thursday morning.
Other notable former players charged are former Redskins defensive players Robert McCune and John Eubanks, former wide receiver Tamarick Vanover, former safety Ceandris Brown, ex-Giants safety James Butler, former defensive backs Frederick Bennett and Etric Pruitt.
Additionally, former Saints wide receiver Joe Horn was charged by the DOJ, although he was not listed on the indictment. Indications are Horn may have cooperated with the DOJ to reach a plea deal.
BREAKING: Clinton Portis charged by feds pic.twitter.com/6iiVlDRGf2
— Scott MacFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews) December 12, 2019
According to the Kentucky State Attorney, more than $3.4 million was taken in the scheme by the players involved for medical equipment that was not actually purchased. Additionally, the “ringleaders” proceeded to recruit additional former players to join the scheme and “demanded kickbacks” whenever those new players received money from reimbursements.
“Numerous individuals, including the NFL players involved … submitted claims involved,” a DOJ special agent said.
Why did the government get involved? According to the DOJ, the behavior of these players could have caused the Gene Upshaw plan to use its tax-free status, which would have put previous and future claims from innocent players in jeopardy as well.
“By defrauding the plan and treating the plan like its own personal ATM, sadly, the players put the tax-free status of the plan at risk,” Benczkowski said.
This is apparently not an unusual fraud scheme, outside of the fact it involved NFL players.
“This is very much like a typical healthcare fraud scheme. There were two ringleaders,” Benczkowski said. “The second ringleader learned about it from the first. Those individuals then recruited recruiters. Those recruiters would then reach to the former players they knew. So it looks just like a traditional healthcare fraud scheme.”
Portis, specifically, has had financial troubles in the past. Documents from 2015 revealed Portis owed $450,000 in back taxes to the IRS, as well as $300,000 in debt to the MGM Casino in Las Vegas. Later Portis would claim he was nearly driven to murder as a result of his financial situation.
These cases involved not just excessive reimbursement claims — “$40,000 to $50,000 each” but also “fake invoices from medical supply companies and forged prescriptions” according to the DOJ.