‘Very sorry.’ Lexington judge sentences former NFL player to prison for fraud.

Joe Ledford
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A former NFL wide receiver will spend one year and one day in jail after a Lexington federal judge sentenced him for defrauding the league’s health care reimbursement fund for retired players.

Eight-year NFL veteran Tamarick Vanover admitted in court records that he conspired with Robert McCune and others to defraud the NFL’s health care expense fund. Vanover’s case was taken to trial and he was found guilty on three of five fraud counts against him, according to court records. But the jury came back hung on the other two counts and a mistrial was declared.

Vanover pleaded guilty after the mistrial. He hadn’t made efforts to repay the money prior to Thursday, prosecutors wrote in court records.

“I am very sorry about what transpired,” Vanover said tearfully after explaining how his actions have already negatively impacted his life.

Judge Karen Caldwell believed Vanover’s remorse and regret were authentic and applauded his cooperation in the case but still believed a jail sentence was required.

After giving Vanover a one year and one day sentence, Caldwell told Vanover to seek physical and mental treatment while incarcerated. Caldwell said she’d recommend Vanover to be housed at a facility that can provided the services he needs. Upon release, Vanover will on probation for three years.

The health care plan, which is called the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, is run by the NFL and allows retired players to file claims for out-of-pocket health care expenses. The players involved didn’t live in Lexington but the health care company which processed the fund’s claims had a processing center in Lexington, according to court records.

Vanover recruited three former players to join the group’s scheme and provided their information to Donald Reche Caldwell, who used that information to file bogus claims for medical expenses which were never actually incurred by the players. Vanover recruited Joseph Horn, Tyrone Williams and Juran Bolden, according to court records.

The claims included falsified prescriptions, letters vouching for medical necessity and invoices, according to court records.

Vanover’s recruiting efforts led to more than $159,000 in fraudulent payouts for those operating the scheme, according to court records.Former players involved in the scheme have been ordered to pay restitution for how much money they caused to be lost in fraud, but prosecutors and the defense couldn’t come to an agreement Thursday on Vanover’s restitution amount.

An additional hearing may need to be held if an agreement can’t be reached on the money Vanover owes.

Case caused embarrassment and depression, ex-NFL receiver says

Vanover never spoke to McCune about the scheme, he said in a letter to the court. He said that Caldwell, another player involved in the scheme, told him about it. Vanover said he provided players’ information to Caldwell so bogus claims could be filed in their name. But he claimed he didn’t know at first that it was a fraud scheme.

“Once I did find out what was actually being done I stopped passing the word to other players and I refused to send any more players info on this HRA scheme,” Vanover wrote in the letter. “I am all for helping the former players but not like this.”

Vanover said in the letter he was embarrassed about the fraud case.

“Ever since this case has been going on, I have felt like I have been in a jail cell without a key,” Vanover wrote. “I have put my life on hold and isolated myself to my bedroom dealing with the embarrassment and the depression that this situation has brought to me and my family.”

Vanover’s attorney asked the court to credit Vanover for time served and not sentence him to any additional incarceration. They also asked the court to consider giving Vanover home incarceration if he was ordered to serve any additional time, according to court records.

Vanover had “limited involvement in the fraud itself,” his attorney Jeffrey A. Darling wrote in court records. Darling said that two of the players Vanover recruited were not charged and the third, Joe Horn, was credited for time served.

Prosecutors wanted 21-plus months in prison for former player

Text messages sent from Vanover to Caldwell, one of his co-conspirators, showed that Vanover knew he was aware of his role in the fraud scheme, prosecutors said in court records.

“Vanover sent a text message to Caldwell stating, ‘I got three players and Ty plus Joe,’” prosecutors wrote in court records. “‘I told them I’m charging 2500 for the connection and 10000 for the plug.’”

Additional text messages indicated that Vanover planned to recruit many more players into the scheme, according to court records.

Federal sentencing guidelines indicated that Vanover’s sentence should be between 21 and 27 months of incarceration, according to court records. Prosecutors asked that the court sentence him on the high end of that range, according to court records.

Vanover will have to self-report to a designated federal prison facility by March 22, the court ruled Thursday.

Vanover played in the NFL from 1995 to 2002. He played for the Kansas City Chiefs for most of his NFL career and also played for the San Diego Chargers for one year in 2002.

Fifteen former NFL players have been charged in this fraud case. Eleven of them, including Vanover, have been sentenced after pleading guilty. Caldwell, who worked with Vanover in the scheme, was shot and killed in an apparent robbery attempt before he could be sentenced in the case.

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