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18 ex-NBA players were charged with illegally pocketing $2.5 million by cheating the league’s health and welfare benefit plan in a scheme. It involves filing bogus medical and dental expenses, according to officials.
“The defendants’ playbook involved fraud and deception,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said at a press conference after FBI investigators throughout the country arrested 15 former players. Also, one of their wives in a three-year conspiracy that began in 2017, according to officials.
According to an indictment filed in federal court in Manhattan, the ex-players conspired to cheat the supplemental coverage plan. It is by filing false claims for medical and dental operations that never occurred.
Prosecutors have travel records, email, and GPS data, according to Strauss. They show the ex-players were sometimes far from the medical and dental clinics when they planned to get the treatment.
According to Strauss, each defendant falsely claimed reimbursements ranging from $65,000 to $420,000.
The NBA said in a statement that the allegations are “especially upsetting” because the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association’s benefit plans are vital in supporting players’ health and well-being throughout their careers and after they retire.
“We will cooperate fully with the U.S. Attorney Office in this matter,” the statement added.
The investigation reflected the FBI’s sustained attention on discovering fraud scams that cost the healthcare industry tens of billions of dollars each year, according to Michael J. Driscoll, the director of the New York FBI office.
Terrence Williams, a first-round NBA draft pick in 2009, was likely to be the mastermind behind the plot, according to Strauss. In November 2017, he allegedly submitted $19,000 in fraudulent claims to the plan for chiropractic services, according to the indictment. Williams received a $7,672 settlement as a result of the claims.
According to the complaint, he then enlisted the help of other former NBA players to defraud the plan, offering to produce forged bills from a chiropractor and dentist in Southern California, as well as a wellness center in Washington.
According to court documents, at least ten of the ex-players paid Williams $230,000 in kickbacks. A lawyer who has previously defended Williams declined to comment.
The 18 ex-NBA players charged, earned a total of $343 million in their NBA careers
What was it like back then? Williams was the 11th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets. He went on to play four seasons as a role player for four different teams: the Nets, Boston, Houston, and Sacramento, averaging 7.1 points per game. In 2013, two days after his 26th birthday, Boston dismissed him, and he hasn’t played in the league since.
Tony Allen, a six-time All-Defensive team pick and member of the 2008 champion Boston Celtics, was among those charged. His wife is also a part of the scam. As of Thursday afternoon, Tony Allen is not apprehended. The Memphis Grizzlies revealed weeks ago that Allen’s number would retire at a game against the Utah Jazz on Jan. 28.
The ex-players charged, on the other hand, had mostly journeyman careers. Thereby, playing for a variety of teams and never achieving the level of fame or wealth that top players enjoy.
Despite this, the 18 ex-NBA players charged, earned a total of $343 million in their NBA careers, not including outside revenue, sponsorships, or any money earned while playing overseas.
Strauss refused to comment on their intentions or financial positions, claiming that doing so would go beyond the indictment’s findings.
Three NBA champions were among those charged
Sebastian Telfair is a one-time high school standout in New York. He got high praises when he got pro. He was also a part of the scam. Even though his NBA career with eight teams never delivered him the success some had hoped for.
Telfair’s financial circumstances entitled him to a court-appointed attorney during a Manhattan hearing before a magistrate judge. He set bond at $250,000, although Telfair released on his signature alone.
Deborah Colson, his lawyer, declined to comment. Outside the courthouse, Telfair, dressed in jogging clothes and green sneakers, did not reply to calls for remark. Colson had entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
Milt Palacio, one of the accused, has been placed on administrative leave from his position as an assistant coach with the Portland Trail Blazers, according to the team. “Pending the outcome of the legal process,” the Blazers declined to speak further.
Aside from Allen, three NBA champions were among those charged. Glen Davis was also a member of Boston’s 2008 championship team. Shannon Brown of the Los Angeles Lakers won two titles, and Melvin Ely of the San Antonio Spurs won one in 2007.
Anthony Wroten, Ruben Patterson, and Darius Miles were the only players who averaged double figures in their NBA careers among those indicted.
It carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail
Washington, California, New York, Alabama, Illinois, Florida, Nevada, Georgia, and Tennessee have all made arrests.
All were charged with healthcare fraud conspiracy and wire fraud. It carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail.
Williams was also charged with aggravated identity theft. It could result in a two-year jail sentence.
Williams attempted to scare a co-defendant into paying a kickback by impersonating an employee from the health plan’s administrative manager. Then, suggesting there was a problem with an invoice that would force the co-defendant to repay the money he’d received.
It wasn’t immediately obvious who, other than Telfair, might represent or remark on behalf of any of the accused players in court.
Attempts to contact Ely, Miles, or Patterson through attorneys or companies linked with them. Also, emails sent to possible addresses for the Allens received no immediate response. The person who answered the phone at Ely’s relatives’ house indicated they were not aware of the situation.
Davis and Wroten did not have a working phone number or email address that one could find right away. Then, they sent an email to a possible Palacio address.
Former NFL players Clinton Portis, Tamarick Vanover, and Robert McCune pled guilty for their involvement in a nationwide health care fraud conspiracy. It was just weeks before the charges were filed.
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