LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sentenced to five years imprisonment for his role in defrauding the National Football League’s Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan, former Louisville football captain and NFL linebacker Robert McCune took a seat on a wooden bench outside the courtroom Wednesday afternoon and acknowledged, “It could have been worse.”
Federal prosecutors had sought a sentence at the high end of a guideline range of 70 to 87 months, to be served consecutive to a 24-month sentence for identity theft. But though Judge Karen Caldwell departed from the guidelines, convinced “The court doesn’t need to protect the public from this defendant,” she decided the severity of McCune’s crimes and the need to deter others justified a total of 60 months of incarceration.
“I’m truly sorry for what I did,” McCune told Caldwell. “If there’s any leniency, I can promise you I can make it right.”
A fifth-round draft choice by the Washington Redskins, McCune would play for four NFL teams and two in the Canadian Football League, sustaining an extensive series of injuries and leaving the game feeling “lost.”
“I’m still not physically and mentally right,” he said. “But I know as long as I’ve got breath in my body, I can make this right. I want to make it right.”
Prosecutors portrayed McCune as the ringleader in an insurance fraud scheme that resulted in more than $2.3 million in bogus claims and brought the former linebacker at least $180,000 in kickbacks. The scheme involved 68 separate transactions involving 51 players, forged documents, altered prescriptions and calls placed while impersonating other players.
Fifteen former NFL players have pleaded guilty to charges, including running back Clinton Portis and wide receiver Joe Horn. The other former players who have pled guilty are Carlos Rogers, Correll Buckhalter, James Butler, Ceandris Brown, John Eubanks, Antwan Odom, Etric Pruitt, Darrell Reid, Anthony Montgomery, Frederick Bennett and Reche Caldwell.
Bruce Harvey, McCune’s attorney, had proposed a 36-month sentence – twice as long as Caldwell had sentenced any of the previous defendants in the case – but Caldwell imposed a three-year sentence for the fraud counts and declined to allow the two-year identity theft sentence to run concurrently.
She ordered that McCune report to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined on April 12, pending a possible appeal.
Nine character witnesses testified either in person, remotely or in recorded interviews that the felonies to which McCune pled guilty were a dramatic departure for a consistently upright character.
Three of those who attended the hearing and lauded McCune had coached him at the University of Louisville: former Cardinals head coach John L. Smith and assistants Greg Nord and Mike Summers.
The coaches described McCune as an extraordinary example who never caused them any trouble and rose from walk-on to team captain. Smith said he would trust McCune with his children and grandchildren.
“Never once did I have to call in for missing a class (or) a study table,” Smith said. “He did things the right way...
“I’m biased. I love him.”
Smith recalled meeting McCune at the urging of his cousin, former U of L receiver Tiger Jones, and asking him follow up the next morning at his office. When Smith arrived at the Cardinals’ football offices at 4:30 a.m., McCune was there waiting for him.
With the former coaches seated behind him, attorney Stephen Katz joked that “walking on is something else, even if it’s Louisville.” But his questions elicited unqualified praise.
“That guy did everything right,” Nord said. “Never an edge bent or rounded off. He’s as good or better as any guy I’ve been around.”
“We would hold him up to other players on the team on what you should be,” said Summers. “...I don’t know that I have known a player more committed to the team than he was.”
Contact Tim Sullivan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @TimSullivan714
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Robert McCune sentenced to 5 years in NFL health care fraud case