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15 Ex-NFL Players Have Pleaded Guilty Over A Scheme To Steal From A Health Care Fund

FILE- In this Jan. 5, 2008, file photo, Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis (26) carries the ball during an NFL wildcard playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle. Portis is announcing his retirement, nearly two years after he played his last NFL game. The Redskins said Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2012, that Portis and owner Dan Snyder will hold a retirement news conference Thursday. (AP Photo/John Froschauer, File)
Former Washington Football Team running back Clinton Portis carries the ball during an NFL wildcard playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Jan. 2008. Portis plead guilty to health care fraud charges Tuesday, authorities said.

Three former NFL players have pleaded guilty to a health care fraud scheme, bringing the total number of retired players who've pleaded guilty to 15, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.Clinton Portis, who most recently played for the Washington Football team, and Tamarick Vanover, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers, entered their guilty pleas last Friday. Robert McCune, who played for several NFL teams, plead guilty to the charges in late August.The former players admitted to defrauding the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, which was created in 2006. The health care plan gave tax-free reimbursements to health expenses that weren't covered by insurance for up to $350,000 per player.But the players submitted false claims to the plan, and were paid out for expensive medical equipment that they never actually obtained. Prosecutors say Portis got $99,264 in benefits over a two month period. Vanover recruited three other former players and got $159,510 paid out. McCune, who turned the fraud into a nation-wide scheme, got approximately $2.9 million submitted in false claims, according to court documents.Some of the expensive devices that the former players filed for include"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." Portis and Vanover face a maximum of 10 years in prison and will be sentenced in Jan. 2022. McCune faces up to 20 years for each count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud, along with additional penalties for other counts. He will be sentenced on Nov. 19.Fifteen players in total have plead guilty to charges of fraud. Ten players were chargedby federal prosecutors in 2019 for being part of the health care fraud scheme; the next year, five additional retired players were charged. Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.