18 former NBA players charged with defrauding league

Eufemia Didonato

Eighteen former NBA players were charged on Thursday for allegedly defrauding the league of millions of dollars after falsely requesting reimbursements for medical services that were not purchased.

The indictment, which was filed in the Southern District of New York, alleges that the players participated in a “widespread scheme” from around 2017 until around 2020 that sought to defraud the league’s Players’ Health and Welfare Benefit Plan, which provides benefits to eligible active and former NBA players.

The players allegedly submitted false and fraudulent claims for reimbursement of expenses for medical and dental services that they did not receive.

Authorities allege that the players submitted false claims totaling roughly $3.9 million and ultimately received approximately $2.5 million in fraudulent reimbursements.

The players indicted in connection to the scheme are Terrence Williams, Alan Anderson, Anthony Allen, Shannon Brown, William Bynum, Ronald Glen Davis, 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.

Desiree Allen, who is also named as a defendant in the indictment, is the spouse of Anthony Allen, who played with the Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans throughout his career.

The defendants were charged with a count of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud.

Sixteen of the defendants were in custody as of Thursday afternoon. They were arrested in 12 districts across the country.

Telfair, one of the defendants, will be presented later today before a magistrate justice in the Southern District of New York, according to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss. The others will be presented before judges in the districts they were arrested in.

The indictment alleges that the scheme was orchestrated by Williams, who previously played for the New Jersey Nets and the Houston Rockets. Prosecutors said he recruited other participants to defraud the plan by offering to give them fake invoices to bolster their false and fraudulent claims.

He also allegedly received approximately $230,000 in kickbacks from his co-conspirators. Strauss said he was the scheme’s “linchpin.”

Williams was also charged with aggravated identity theft for impersonating an employee who worked on the NBA players’ health plan. According to the indictment, he pretended to be an employee with the plan to try to scare one of the defendants who failed to pay him a kickback.

The NBA, in a statement following the indictments, emphasized the importance of their health benefits plan, adding that the allegations against the former players are “disheartening.”

“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,” the league added.

According to Strauss, investigators used travel records, emails, GPS data and other evidence to prove that the defendants were not near locations where they claimed to have received medical care.

In one instance, Smith had submitted a claim to the plan saying that he received IV sedation, root canals and crowns on eight teeth at a dentist’s office in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2018, which cost nearly $48,000 altogether, according to Strauss.

According to travel records, emails and publicly available box scores, however, Smith was playing professional basketball in Taiwan that week and did not receive the dental care in California, Strauss said.

Strauss outlined other instances in which the defendants claimed to have had root canals and crowns on the same teeth on the same day, which turned out to be untrue.

“The defendants’ playbook involved fraud and deception. Thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement partners, their alleged scheme has been disrupted, and they will have to answer for their flagrant violations of law,” Strauss said during a press conference on Thursday.

One of the bigger names on the defendant list is Davis, who also goes by the nickname “Big Baby” and who helped lead the Boston Celtics to an NBA championship in 2008.

Updated 3:13 p.m.

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