Eighteen former NBA players have been indicted and accused of defrauding the league's health and benefits plan of nearly $4 million, federal prosecutors announced Thursday. The former players were charged with conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud.
The scheme lasted from about 2017 through 2020 when the former players allegedly submitted false and fraudulent claims for reimbursement for medical and dental services that were never rendered, according to the indictment.
Terrence Williams, a former New Jersey Nets player, allegedly orchestrated the scheme and recruited other former players by supplying them fake invoices to support the fraudulent claims, federal prosecutors said. The indictment alleges that Williams was paid more than $230,000 in "kickbacks" for the fake invoices.
He was also charged with aggravated identity theft for allegedly impersonating a health plan employee and threatening players who did not pay him a "kickback."
Williams, who the Nets drafted 11th overall in 2009, was arrested in Washington state, federal authorities said. An additional 15 of the named defendants are currently in police custody
"The defendants' playbook involved fraud and deception," Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York, said in a news conference Thursday. "Thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement partners, their alleged scheme has been disrupted and they will have to answer for their flagrant violations of law."
Investigators discovered the scheme through discrepancies in paperwork. Prosecutors said Gregory Smith submitted claims for a root canal and crowns on December 20, 2018, in Beverly Hills — the same day he was playing for Taiwan's Super Basketball League.
"Travel records, e-mail and publicly available box scores showed that he was playing professional basketball in Taiwan that week and did not receive root canals in Beverly Hills as represented in the claim form he submitted," Strauss said.
A total of 19 people were charged in the alleged scheme, including Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who won a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008. Anthony Allen, who earned a ring alongside Davis with the Celtics, was also charged. The Memphis Grizzlies planned to retire Allen's No. 9 jersey later this year.
His wife, Desiree Allen, is the only non-player named in the indictment.
Davis, Allen and Anthony Wroten allegedly submitted claims for root canals on the same six teeth on April 30, 2016, and crowns on the same teeth on May 11, 2016, according to Strauss. On September 6, 2018, Wroten and Allen filed paperwork again on root canals for the same 13 teeth.
The other players indicted included Darius Miles and Sebastian Telfair, both of whom were drafted to the NBA out of high school. Other well-known players included Shannon Brown, William Bynum, Jamario Moon and Antoine Wright.
If convicted, each defendant could get at least 20 years in prison. Williams could face an additional 15 years for the identity theft charge.
"This (health care) industry loses tens of millions of dollars a year to fraud," said Michael Driscoll, the assistant director of the FBI's New York Field Office. "These costs are then passed down to business and customers. That's a fraud we take very seriously."
Last month, three former NFL players, including star running back Clinton Portis,to their roles in a health care fraud scheme, authorities said.
Portis, Tamarick Vanover and Robert McCune were part of a larger, long-running plot to file phony health insurance claims, according to federal prosecutors. They said the retired players submitted a total of $3.9 million in false claims. Portis and Vanover now face up to 10 years in prison, while McCune faces up to 20 years.
Kristopher Brooks contributed reporting.
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