Eighteen former NBA players have been accused of defrauding the league’s Health and Welfare Benefit Plan out of almost $4 million, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York announced Thursday.
Among the players are Terrence Williams, Sebastian Telfair, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Tony Allen, Ruben Patterson, Shannon Brown, Will Bynum, Christopher Douglas-Roberts, Alan Anderson, Tony Wroten, Jamario Moon, and more. Sixteen of the 19 people charged in the indictment are already in custody, authorities added Thursday.
*LIVE EVENT* There will be a press conference today at noon to announce an indictment against 19 defendants, including 18 former NBA players for defrauding the NBA’s Health and Welfare Benefit Plan out of approximately $4,000,000. livestreamed on Facebook @USAOSDNY pic.twitter.com/TFrp6ayn5g
— US Attorney SDNY (@SDNYnews) October 7, 2021
The U.S. Attorney’s Office scheduled a Thursday news conference at a Manhattan courthouse to discuss the indictment, which alleges that the 18 former players — and 19 people total, with Tony Allen’s wife Desiree also charged — were involved in a scheme that drained over $3.9 million from the NBA’s Health and Welfare Benefit Plan through false claims.
The scheme — where the accused players were reimbursed for medical procedures that never took place — was carried out from 2017 to 2020, the indictment states. Each player has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare and wire fraud.
According to the indictment, obtained by Rolling Stone, Terrence Williams — a six-year NBA vet who was selected in the first round by the New Jersey Nets in 2009 — “orchestrated” the scheme by offering to submit “fraudulent invoices” to chiropractors, dentists, and doctors on behalf of the players; the players, in turn, provided Williams with a “kickback” when the claims for the falsified medical procedures were reimbursed by the NBA’s benefits program.
“Williams was the scheme’s lynchpin. He provided the other former players with false invoices for medical and dental procedures that they never received,” United States Attorney Audrey Strauss said at a press conference Thursday. “The defendants’ playbook involved fraud and deception… they will have to answer for their flagrant violations of the law.”
Strauss provided an overview of the scheme: “First, Williams obtained fraudulent medical and dental invoices. Second, he sent those invoices to his co-conspirators, other former NBA players. Third, the co-conspirators submitted the fraudulent invoices to the plan. Fourth, unaware that the plan was fraudulent, the plan paid most of the defendants’ claims. Fifth, in many cases, the players paid kickbacks to Williams.”
In all, $3.9 million in false claims were filed, with the players receiving $2.5 million in reimbursements from the fraudulent claims; Williams’ kickback was $230,000, Strauss added. “When one defendant failed to pay Williams his kickback, Williams attempted to frighten the player into re-engaging with Williams by impersonating an employee from the plan’s administrative manager in claiming that there was an issue with the player’s invoice that might require him to pay back the claim.” Because of that allegation, Williams also faces a charge of aggravated identity theft for impersonating the administrative manager.
Strauss also mentioned the case against former Houston Rockets player Greg Smith, who claimed he received $48,000 worth of dental work at a Beverly Hills dentist office on December 20th, 2018; the Attorney’s Office quickly discovered — via box scores — that Smith spent that day playing basketball in Taiwan. “Travel records, email, GPS data, and other evidence shows that the defendants who purportedly received medical and dental services at a location on a particular day were often nowhere near the providers’ offices when the claims’ services were supposedly provided,” Strauss said.