Former NBA players charged in $4M health care fraud scheme

NEW YORK — 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.

Federal prosecutors planned a news conference to describe the case that was brought in Manhattan federal court. By late morning, 16 of the defendants were in custody, authorities said.

According to the indictment, the former 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 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 scheme developed after Terrence Williams, who began his career as a first-round pick in 2009, submitted $19,000 in fraudulent claims to the plan in November 2017 for chiropractic care. The claims led to a $7,672 payout for Williams.

The indictment said he then recruited other former NBA players to defraud the plan and offered to provide fraudulent invoices from a chiropractor and dentist in Southern California and a wellness office in Washington state.

At least 10 of the former players paid kickbacks totaling about $230,000 to Williams, according to the court papers. A lawyer who has represented Williams in the past declined to comment.

The Nets selected Williams with the 11th pick in the 2009 draft. He went on to play for four franchises — the Nets, Celtics, Rockets and Kings — over four seasons as a role player, averaging 7.1 points per game. He was waived by Boston two days after his 26th birthday in 2013 and didn’t appear in the league again.

Also among those charged was Tony Allen, a six-time all-defensive team selection and member of the 2008 champion Celtics, along with his wife. For the most part, though, the former players had journeyman careers playing for several teams and never reaching anywhere close to the enormous stardom or salary that top players command.

Another former player charged 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 included four NBA champions. Glen Davis, along with Allen, was part of that 2008 title team in Boston, Shannon Brown won two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Melvin Ely won a title with the San Antonio Spurs in 2007.

Among others who were charged, Tony 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 teams. Miles, the No. 3 pick in the 2000 draft, averaged 10.1 points per game while playing with four franchises.

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