NEW YORK — Eighteen former NBA players were indicted on charges that they participated in a conspiracy to defraud the league’s health and welfare plan out of approximately $4 million, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
The scheme lasted from at least 2017 through 2020 and involved the submission of fraudulent claims for reimbursement of medical and dental services that were not provided, The New York Times reported. The claims totaled nearly $4 million, according to CNN.
Most of the players charged played in the NBA during the late 1990s and the 2000s, the newspaper reported. They include Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Tony Allen, who were teammates on the Boston Celtics squad that won the 2008 NBA championship.
The Memphis Grizzlies announced several weeks ago that they planned to retire Allen’s number at a Jan. 28 game against the Utah Jazz, ESPN reported.
Allen’s wife, Desiree Allen, also was indicted, prosecutors said.
“The defendants’ playbook involved fraud and deception,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said at a news conference in New York.
Arrests occurred in Washington state, California, New York, Alabama, Illinois, Florida, Nevada, Georgia and Tennessee, ESPN reported. All were charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison.
According to the indictment, Terrence Williams, who played for the New Jersey Nets and the Houston Rockets, orchestrated the scheme and recruited other former players by offering to supply them with false invoices, the Times reported. The indictment charges that Williams also received $230,000 in kickbacks, the newspaper reported.
Williams also was charged with aggravated identity theft, ESPN reported. That carries a potential penalty of up to two years in prison.
Each person allegedly tried to claim between $65,000 to as much as $420,000 in fraudulent medical service reimbursements, Strauss said during the news conference.
“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 date were often nowhere near the providers’ offices when the claimed services were supposedly provided,” Strauss told reporters.
According to the indictment, the conspirators submitted claims totaling $3.9 million, and they ultimately received about $2.5 million in fraudulent proceeds.
“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,” the NBA said in a statement. “We will cooperate fully with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this matter.”
Other former players charged include Darius Miles and Sebastian Telfair, who were drafted out of high school, the Times reported.
Several former Chicago Bulls were charged, according to WLS-TV. They include Charles “C.J.” Watson, Eddie Robinson and Shannon Brown. Will Bynum and Melvin Ely also had ties to Chicago, the television station reported.
The other players charged are Alan Anderson, Christopher Douglas-Roberts, Milton Palacio, Ruben Patterson, Greg Smith, Jamario Moon, Antoine Wright and Tony Wroten.
Milt Palacio, an assistant coach with the Portland Trail Blazers, was placed on administrative leave, ESPN reported.
Brown won two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and Ely won a title with the San Antonio Spurs in 2007.
“We are aware of the indictment of former NBA players announced earlier today by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York,” the NBA Players Association said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the matter.”
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