Former NBA Players Charged in Health Care Fraud Scheme

Patrick England, Staff Reporter

On October 7, 18 former NBA players were charged with defrauding the league’s Health and Welfare Benefit Plan for nearly $2.5 million. These players made false medical and dental claims in order to receive money from the league to cover these fake services. In a news conference, U.S. attorney Audrey Strauss said that the defendants’ playbook involved fraud and deception. These fraudulent claims are part of a three-year conspiracy that has continued to be investigated by the FBI. So far, 15 former NBA players along with one of their wives have been arrested.

An indictment presented in Manhattan Federal Court claims the players teamed up to defraud the league’s Health and Welfare Benefit Plan by giving false claims in order to get reimbursed for procedures that never took place. The indictment says this has been going on from at least 2017 to 2020, where the NBA has received nearly $4 million worth of false claims in which the players have received around $2.5 million. Each defendant involved is said to have received anywhere from $65,000 to $420,000 from false claims. Prosecutors have been gathering information of travel records along with email and GPS data that shows these players were often not anywhere near where they were allegedly getting medical or dental procedures. One example of this is a player that was in Taiwan playing basketball when he claimed he was getting nearly $50,000 worth of dental services in California in 2018.

U.S attorney Audrey Strauss said the fraudulent claims were led by Terrence Williams, who entered the NBA in 2009. In his first fraudulent claim in 2017, he was given around $7,500 for a false claim of chiropractic care of $19,000. Williams allegedly then got other former players in on the scheme and provided them with chiropractors, dentists and a wellness center that were willing to give false invoices to the players. Williams was paid $230,000 total from these players as a bribe for providing them with this information. The NBA referred to these allegations as “particularly disheartening” due to the fact that their benefit plans are meant to provide players with support for their health and well-being during and after their careers, not be used as a way to obtain money from false claims. The NBA also said that they are willing to cooperate fully with the U.S. Attorney Office.

The majority of the players involved in this scheme were nowhere near superstars or earning enormous salaries while in the league. The 18 players combined to make just under $350 million during their NBA careers, not including outside income. The four most notable players involved in the scheme are all former NBA champions. This includes Tony Allen of the Boston Celtics, Shannon Brown of the Los Angeles Lakers, Melvin Ely of the San Antonio Spurs, and Glen “Big Baby” Davis also of the Bostin Celtics. Along with them, Tony Allen’s wife was also indicted.

All of those involved have been charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Arrests of players occurred in Washington State, California, New York, Alabama, Illinois, Florida, Nevada and Tennessee.