NEW YORK (AP/CBS Chicago) — Eighteen former NBA players have been charged with defrauding the league's health and welfare benefit plan out of about $4 million, according to an indictment Thursday in New York.
Shannon Brown, who played high school basketball at Proviso East in Maywood, is among those arrested. He was named Illinois Mr. Basketball in 2003 and played college ball at Michigan State before becoming a No. 1 draft pick in 2006.
Other indicted players with Chicago connections: Eddie Robinson and C.J. Watson played for the Chicago Bulls (Brown played six games for the team); Anthony (Tony) Allen and Will Bynum played high school ball at Crane in Chicago; Melvin Ely played for Thornton High School and was also a No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Darius Miles played from East St. Louis high school. Bynum and Ely will be appearing for a hearing at Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago at 2:30 p.m.
By late morning, 16 of the defendants were in custody, authorities said.
The 18 players were among 19 individuals charged in the indictment. It said that the scheme was carried out from at least 2017 to 2020, when the plan received false claims totaling about $3.9 million. Of that, the defendants received about $2.5 million in fraudulent proceeds.
According to the indictment, the ex-players engaged in a widespread scheme to defraud the plan by submitting false and fraudulent claims to get reimbursed for medical and dental expenses that were never actually incurred. The scheme was led by former NBA player Terrence Williams, who supplied other players with false invoices and was paid a portion of the fraudulent payments as a kickback, according to the indictment. Those kickbacks to Williams totaled $230,000, the indictment said.
Unnamed participants at a chiropractic office in Encino. Calif., helped Williams to create fabricated invoices for chiropractic services, the indictment said. Williams obtained reimbursement of $7,672.55 for services that were never provided, prosecutors said. Williams then recruited other former players and offered to provide bogus invoices on their behalf for chiropractic services as well as dental services from an office in Beverly Hills, Calif. and a wellness center in Washington State. At one point, Williams allegedly impersonated an individual who processed plan claims, prosecutors said.
Brown, Miles, Allen, Bynum, Watson and Robinson are all accused to filing fake claims for chiropractic services. Allen, Watson and Miles also allegedly submitted false dental claims for root canals. Watson alone submitted a claim for root canal therapy on 12 teeth. Ely is accused of submitting false claims to the wellness center.
A request for comment to the league wasn't immediately returned. The plan, which covers expenses not paid by the former players' primary insurance, is funded with contributions for each NBA team.
Allen was a six-time All-Defensive team selection and a member of the 2008 champion Boston Celtics. His wife was also indicted. For the most part, though, the ex-players charged had journeyman careers playing for several different teams and never reached anywhere close to the enormous stardom or salary that top players command.
Another former player charged in the scheme was Sebastian Telfair, a one-time high school star in New York who was highly touted when he turned pro, though his NBA career with eight franchises never brought the stardom some had expected.
Those charged also included four NBA champions. Ronald Glen Davis, along with Allen, was part of that 2008 title team in Boston. Brown won two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Ely won a title with San Antonio in 2007.
Among others who were charged, Anthony Wroten, Ruben Patterson and Darius Miles were the only players who averaged double figures for their NBA career.
Wroten averaged 11.1 points in 145 career games. Patterson averaged 10.7 points per game with six different teams. Miles, the No. 3 pick in the 2000 draft, averaged 10.1 points per game and played with four different franchises.
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