NEW YORK — Eighteen former NBA players have been charged with defrauding the league’s health and wellness benefit plan out of nearly $4 million, according to an indictment Thursday in New York.
Federal prosecutors planned a news conference to describe the case brought in Manhattan federal court. Officials said that as of late morning, 16 defendants were in custody.
According to the indictment, ex-players engaged in an elaborate scheme to defraud the scheme by submitting false and fraudulent claims to obtain reimbursement for medical and dental expenses that were never actually incurred.
The 18 players were among the 19 persons charged in the indictment. It said the plan was implemented from at least 2017 to 2020, when the plan received about $3.9 million worth of false claims. Of that, the defendant fraudulently received approximately $2.5 million.
A request for comment was not immediately returned to the league.
According to the indictment, the scheme developed after Terrence Williams — who began his career as an NBA draft pick in 2009 — submitted $19,000 in fraudulent claims to the plan for chiropractic care in November 2017. The claims led to a payment of $7,672 for Williams.
The indictment says he recruited other former NBA players to defraud the scheme and offered to provide fraudulent invoices from a chiropractor and dentist in Southern California and a wellness office in Washington state.
According to court papers, at least 10 of the former players paid a bribe of about $230,000 to Williams. A lawyer who has represented Williams in the past declined to comment.
What was then the New Jersey Nets selected Williams as number 11 in the 2009 draft. He played with four franchises – Nets, Boston, Houston and Sacramento – over four seasons as a role player, averaging 7.1 points per game. He was pardoned by Boston in 2013, two days after his 26th birthday, and has not joined the league since.
Others charged were Tony Allen, a six-time All-Defensive team selection and a member of the 2008 champion Boston Celtics. His wife was also made an accused. For the most part, however, former players were accused of playing travelman careers for many different teams and never reaching anywhere near the huge stardom or salaries of the top players of the order.
Another former player implicated in the scheme was Sebastian Telfair, a one-time high school star in New York who was well-liked when he turned pro, although his NBA career with eight franchises never saw him rise to stardom. Didn’t bring what some people expected.
Four NBA champions are also among those accused. Ronald Glenn Davis, along with Allen, was part of that 2008 title team in Boston. Shannon Brown won two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Melvin Alley won one title with San Antonio in 2007. Alley played in Denver during the 2010–11 season.
Among others who were charged, Anthony Rotten, Ruben Patterson and Darius Miles were the only players to have averaged double figures for their NBA careers.
Rotten averaged 11.1 points in 145 career games. Patterson averaged 10.7 points per game in 2006 with six different teams, including the Nuggets. 3 pick in the 2000 draft, averaging 10.1 points per game and playing with four different franchises.
According to NBC News, former Colorado State guard Milt Palacio, who played seven seasons in the NBA, was also charged.
The Denver Post contributed to this report.