NEW YORK. Eighteen former NBA players were charged Thursday with illegally pocketing about $ 2.5 million., by defrauding the league’s health insurance and benefits plan, in a scheme that authorities said involved claims for fictitious medical and dental expenses.
“The actions of these defendants involved fraud and deceit,” said prosecutor Audrey Strauss during a press conference, after FBI agents in different parts of the country arrested 15 former players and the wife of one of them.
According to the authorities, the plot began in 2017 and lasted for three years.
An indictment in federal court in Manhattan says the former basketball players conspired to defraud the plan’s supplemental coverage by submitting false and fraudulent claims in order to receive reimbursements for medical and dental care they never received.
Strauss said prosecutors have travel logs, emails and satellite location data showing former players were sometimes away from medical and dental offices at the time they were allegedly receiving treatment.
The prosecutor explained that, in one case, a former basketball player was playing in Taiwan in December 2018, when he was allegedly undergoing endodontic treatment and crowns for $ 48,000 on eight teeth, inside an office in Beverly Hills, California.
The 18 players are among the 19 indicted individuals. It was noted that the ruse ran at least between 2017 and 2020 when the plan received false claims totaling nearly $ 3.9 million. Of that figure, the defendants would have pocketed about 2.5 million in fraudulent income.
Strauss said each defendant would have filed claims for reimbursements of between $ 65,000 and $ 420,000 based on the false information.
In a statement, the NBA called the allegations “particularly discouraging,” given that the plans provided by the league and the players’ union are critically important to the health and well-being in the careers of athletes and in their lives after retire from basketball.
“We will cooperate fully with the federal prosecutor’s office in this matter,” the statement added.
According to the indictment, the plot began when Terrence Williams – the top pick in the 2009 NBA draft – submitted a fraudulent $ 19,000 claim to the plan in November 2017 for chiropractic treatment. That claim resulted in a payment of $ 7,672 to Williams.
The indictment notes that Williams recruited other former NBA players in order to defraud the scheme and submit fraudulent receipts from a Southern California chiropractor and dentist, as well as from a holistic program in Washington state.
At least 10 of the former players paid bribes totaling nearly $ 230,000 to Williams, according to documentation. An attorney who has represented Williams in the past declined to comment.
The then New Jersey Nets selected Williams as No. 11 in the 2009 draft. He played in four franchises – the Nets, Boston, Houston and Sacramento – over four seasons as a backup and averaged 7.1 points per game. He was released by Boston two days after his 26th birthday in 2013 and has not played in the league since.
Among the other defendants stands out Tony Allen, six times included in the league’s best defensive team and a member of the Boston Celtics who won the 2008 championship. His wife was also charged.
For the most part, the former accusing players were league globetrotters and never achieved the fame or exorbitant salaries of the greats.
Another defendant was Sebastian Telfair, a prodigy in his high school years in New York. However, the military never took off with eight franchises in the NBA.
Four of the defendants boast of NBA championship. Glen Davis was Allen’s teammates with the Celtics in 2008; Shannon Brown won two titles with the Los Angeles Lakers; and Melvin Ely was champion with San Antonio in 2007. / AP