18 ex-NBA players charged in $4M health care fraud scheme

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NEW YORK — Eighteen erstwhile NBA players were charged Thursday with pocketing astir $2.5 cardinal illegally by defrauding the league’s wellness and payment payment program successful a scam that authorities said progressive claiming fictitious aesculapian and dental expenses.

“The defendants’ playbook progressive fraud and deception,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss told a quality league aft FBI agents crossed the state arrested 15 ex-players and 1 of their wives successful a three-year conspiracy that authorities accidental started successful 2017.

According to an indictment returned successful Manhattan national court, the ex-players teamed up to defraud the supplemental sum program by submitting fraudulent claims to get reimbursed for aesculapian and dental procedures that ne'er happened.

Arrests occurred successful Nevada, Washington state, California, New York, Alabama, Illinois, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

Strauss said prosecutors person question records, email and GPS information that proves the ex-players were sometimes acold from the aesculapian and dental offices astatine the times erstwhile they were supposedly getting treated.

In 1 instance, she said, an ex-player was playing hoops successful Taiwan erstwhile helium was supposedly getting $48,000 worthy of basal canals and crowns connected 8 teeth astatine a Beverly Hills, California, dental bureau successful December 2018.

The indictment said the strategy was carried retired from astatine slightest 2017 to 2020, erstwhile the program — funded chiefly by NBA teams — received mendacious claims totaling astir $3.9 million. Of that, the defendants received astir $2.5 cardinal successful fraudulent proceeds.

Strauss said each suspect made mendacious claims for reimbursements that ranged from $65,000 to $420,000.

In a statement, the NBA called the allegations “particularly disheartening” due to the fact that the payment plans provided by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association are critically important to enactment players’ wellness and well-being passim their careers and post-retirement lives.

“We volition cooperate afloat with the U.S. Attorney Office successful this matter,” the connection added.

Michael J. Driscoll, the caput of New York’s FBI office, said the lawsuit demonstrated the FBI’s continued absorption connected uncovering fraud scams that outgo the wellness attraction manufacture tens of billions of dollars a year.

Strauss said the conspiracy was led by Terrence Williams, who began his vocation arsenic a first-round NBA draught prime successful 2009. The indictment said helium submitted $19,000 successful fraudulent claims to the program successful November 2017 for chiropractic care. The claims led to a $7,672 payout for Williams.

The indictment said helium past recruited different erstwhile NBA players to defraud the program and offered to supply fraudulent invoices from a chiropractor and dentist successful Southern California and a wellness bureau successful Washington state.

At slightest 10 of the ex-players paid kickbacks totaling astir $230,000 to Williams, according to the tribunal papers. A lawyer who has represented Williams successful the past declined to comment.

What was past the New Jersey Nets picked Williams arsenic No. 11 successful the 2009 draft. He went connected to play with 4 franchises — the Nets, Boston, Houston and Sacramento — implicit 4 seasons arsenic a relation player, averaging 7.1 points per game. He was waived by Boston 2 days aft his 26th day successful 2013 and hasn’t appeared successful the league since.

Among others charged was Tony Allen, a six-time All-Defensive squad enactment and a subordinate of the 2008 champion Boston Celtics. His woman was besides indicted. Tony Allen was not successful custody arsenic of Thursday afternoon. The Memphis Grizzlies announced weeks agone that they program to discontinue Allen’s fig astatine a Jan. 28 crippled versus the Utah Jazz.

For the astir part, though, the ex-players charged had journeyman careers playing for respective antithetic teams and ne'er reached anyplace adjacent to the tremendous stardom oregon wage that apical players command.

Still, the 18 players combined to marque $343 cardinal successful their on-court NBA careers, not counting extracurricular income, endorsements oregon what immoderate whitethorn person made playing overseas.

Strauss declined to speculate connected their motivations oregon fiscal situations, saying to bash truthful would spell beyond the facts successful the indictment.

Another erstwhile subordinate charged successful the strategy was Sebastian Telfair, a one-time precocious schoolhouse prima successful New York who was highly touted erstwhile helium turned pro, though his NBA vocation with 8 franchises ne'er brought the stardom immoderate had expected.

Telfair’s finances qualified him for a court-appointed lawyer astatine an quality successful Manhattan earlier a magistrate judge, who acceptable bail astatine $250,000, though Telfair was freed connected his signature alone.

His lawyer, Deborah Colson, declined comment. Telfair, successful moving covering and greenish sneakers, did not respond to requests for remark extracurricular the courtroom, wherever Colson had entered a not blameworthy plea connected his behalf.

Milt Palacio, 1 of those charged, was placed connected administrative permission from his relation arsenic an adjunct manager with the Portland Trail Blazers, the squad said Thursday. The Blazers declined further remark “pending the result of the ineligible process.”

Those charged besides included 3 NBA champions too Allen. Glen Davis was besides portion of that 2008 rubric squad successful Boston. Shannon Brown won 2 championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Melvin Ely won a rubric with San Antonio successful 2007.

Among others who were charged, Anthony Wroten, Ruben Patterson and Darius Miles were the lone players who averaged treble figures successful their NBA careers.

All were charged with conspiracy to perpetrate wellness attraction fraud and ligament fraud, which carries the imaginable punishment of up to 20 years successful prison.

Williams was besides charged with aggravated individuality theft, which carries a imaginable punishment of up to 2 years successful prison.

Strauss said the complaint was lodged due to the fact that Williams tried to frighten a co-defendant into paying a kickback by impersonating an worker from the wellness plan’s administrative manager, claiming determination was an contented with an invoice that mightiness necessitate the co-defendant to wage backmost wealth he’d received.

It wasn’t instantly wide who mightiness correspond immoderate of the accused players different than Telfair successful tribunal oregon remark connected their behalf.

There was nary contiguous effect to efforts to interaction Ely, Miles, oregon Patterson done attorneys oregon entities that person been associated with them, oregon to emails sent to imaginable addresses for the Allens. A idiosyncratic who answered the telephone astatine the location of Ely’s relatives said they were unaware of the case.

No moving telephone fig oregon email code could instantly beryllium recovered for Davis oregon Wroten. An email was sent to a imaginable code for Palacio.

The charges came conscionable weeks aft erstwhile NFL players Clinton Portis, Tamarick Vanover and Robert McCune pleaded blameworthy for their roles successful a nationwide wellness attraction fraud scheme.

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