Eighteen former NBA players were arrested and charged in an alleged healthcare fraud scheme that defrauded the league’s health and benefits plan out of $4m.
A grand jury indictment unsealed in the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York alleges that Terrence Williams “orchestrated” a plan to file false claims to the league’s Health and Welfare Benefit Plan, then allegedly offered to provide fraudulent invoices from former players in exchange for payments to him.
Among the 19 total people charged are Glen “Big Baby” Davis, a former member of the 2008 championship Boston Celtics, as well as former fellow Celtics champion and six-time NBA All-Defensive Team member Tony Allen. His wife Desiree is also charged.
Other men included in the indictment are Alan Anderson, Shannon Brown, William Bynum, Christopher Douglas-Roberts, Melvin Ely, Jamario Moon, Darius Miles, Milton Palacio, Ruben Patterson, Eddie Robinson, Gregory Smith, Sebastian Telfair, Charles Watson Jr., Antoine Wright, and Anthony Wroten.
FBI agents have arrested 16 defendants.
The benefits plan reimburses medical payments for current and former players. Charges include conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud, spanning an alleged scheme that ran from 2017 through 2020.
US Attorney Audrey Strauss described Mr Williams as “the scheme’s lynchpin” during a press conference on 7 October. He “provided other players with false invoices for medical and dental procedures they never received,” she said.
The plan ultimately paid out $2.5m to defendants, according to prosecutors. Mr Williams also received $230,000 in kickbacks, Ms Strauss said. He was also charged with aggravated identity theft.
“The defendants’ playbook involved fraud and deception,” Ms Strauss said. “They will have to answer for their fragrant violations of law.”
In a statement to The Independent, the NBA said that the “benefit plans provided by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association to our players are critically important to support their health and well-being throughout their playing careers and over the course of their lives, which makes these allegations particularly disheartening.”
“We will cooperate fully with the U S Attorney’s Office in this matter,” the statement said.
According to the indictment, Mr Williams submitted a false claim to be reimbursed $19,000 for chiropractic services in November 2017, using “fabricated” invoices from the office. The NBA plan paid out more than $7,600.
Mr Williams then “recruited” other players into a scheme in exchange for kickback payments for filing claims on their behalf, according to the indictment.
In May 2019, when a plan administrator requested “letters of medical necessity” to justify claims, several defendants replied with “unusual” responses. Letters were not on official letterhead, contained unusual formatting, and spelling and grammar errors, according to prosecutors. Other letters sent in June 2019 described injuries different from those previously described, according to the indictment.
A board review later determined that services for several defendants were never rendered and retroactively denied their claims, according to the indictment.
Claims made for dental work happened while former players were travelling, and Mr Allen, Mr Davis and Mr Wroten all claimed to receive root canals on the same day, according to the indictment.
At least 10 defendants gave kickbacks to Mr Williams, totaling $230,00, and falsely claimed to be a plan administrator – using a fake email in an apparent attempt to “frighten” Mr Douglas-Roberts by raising an issue with his reimbursement after he didn’t pay Mr Williams any kickbacks, according to the indictment.
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