Thursday, January 27, 2022

Former NFL star Clinton Portis receives six-month prison sentence for fraud scheme

After pleading guilty to his role in a nationwide scheme to defraud the NFL‘s healthcare benefit program for league veterans, former All-Pro running back Clinton Portis was sentenced to six months in prison on Thursday. 

Federal prosecutors had previously recommended a high-end sentencing — between 10 and 16 months of prison time — as well as a fine for Portis’ involvement in the fraud case. That’s according to U.S. District Court filings obtained by CBS Sports.

Portis, 40, best known as a repeat Pro Bowler for the Washington Football Team from 2004-2010, wrongfully obtained nearly $100,000 as part of a crime ring that sought more than $2.8 million through false reimbursement claims. Former NFL linebacker Robert McCune allegedly orchestrated the scheme, which targeted a reimbursement account established to help retired players cover medical expenses, but Portis admitted in August that he made two separate false and fraudulent claims as part of the operation.

Portis’ counsel filed a sentencing memorandum Dec. 30 to request a sentence of “time served” in lieu of incarceration, meaning he would face zero jail time after Thursday’s sentencing. Other defendants, including fellow NFL alumni Antwan Odom, Carlos Rogers and Joe Horn, avoided incarceration despite similar conduct in the scheme, Portis’ filing states. The retired Washington star also notes that he now has multiple minor children, including infant twins born in August, who depend on him.

Portis, who previously filed for bankruptcy in 2015, has also lost most of his business opportunities since his initial indictment in December 2019, his filing argues, noting that he lost a broadcasting job with Washington Football Team — as well as future sports-betting opportunities with Fox and Bleacher Report — due to his legal situation. His filing includes nearly 60 letters from peers advocating for his character, including former NFL veterans Edgerrin James, London Fletcher and Takeo Spikes; as well as Washington Football Team owners Daniel and Tanya Snyder.

“(We) were shocked when Clinton was indicted,” the Snyders wrote, “(not) because Clinton got wrapped up in something where others did not have his best interest in mind, but because Clinton is the opposite of a criminal. We support Clinton fully. He has told us how deeply he regrets getting involved in what he should have known was not legitimate. And he has suffered deeply for it.”

In their own Dec. 30 court filing, federal attorneys argue a “sentence at the high end of the (10-16 months) range is appropriate.” Portis was approached by FBI agents about his alleged involvement in the fraud scheme in 2019 but did not make any statements, the filing says, and he initially testified and denied any wrongdoing in August 2021, only admitting willful involvement ahead of a retrial the following week. 

“Finally,” federal prosecutors argue, “only with sentencing looming has Portis repaid the (NFL’s reimbursement plan). The United States understands that, on Dec. 20, 2021, Portis wired the Plan the $99,264 to repay the Plan for (his) false and fraudulent claims. … Health care fraud like that committed by Portis contributes greatly to the inflated cost of health care in this country. It is incumbent upon the Court to send a strong, clear message to the public that such a violation of the trust health care plans in those they seek to help cannot and will not be tolerated.”

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