More than a dozen NBA veterans — including former Coney Island high school star and ex-Los Angeles Clipper Sebastian Telfair — have been charged with ripping off millions from the league’s health plan by submitting bogus invoices with glaring typos and discrepancies, Manhattan federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
The indictment accuses 18 former ballers of defrauding $4 million from the NBA’s Health and Welfare Benefit Plan, which provides additional coverage to eligible active and retired players.
The defendants, who earned a combined $360 million during their NBA careers, allegedly submitted “false and fraudulent claims for reimbursement of expenses for medical and dental services that were not actually rendered,” according to court papers.
The scheme was orchestrated by ex-New Jersey Net shooting guard Terrence Williams, who allegedly recruited other retired athletes and supplied them with the fake invoices and letters for reimbursement in exchange for at least $230,000 in kickbacks, said Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss.
But Williams’ phony documentation raised suspicions — particularly a pair of 2019 letters that were supposedly from a chiropractor and were submitted by two defendants in the case.
“[The] letters are unusual in several respects: they are not on letterhead, contain unusual formatting, have grammatical errors, and one of the letters misspells a purported patient’s name,” the indictment states.
In another red flag, ex-Chicago Bulls power forward Gregory Smith submitted $48,000 in claims for eight root canals and crowns supposedly performed at a Beverly Hills dental office on Dec. 20, 2018, when he was out of the country that entire month, playing professional basketball in Taiwan.
Similarly, ex-Boston Celtics power forward Ronald Glen Davis, aka Big Baby, allegedly submitted a $27,000 dental claim for work performed at the same Beverly Hills dental office — even though he was traveling in Paris on that date.
Reimbursement documents provided by Williams and submitted by two of the defendants falsely showed that they had undergone 13 root canals and 12 crowns on the exact same teeth and on the exact same date, Strauss said.
Among the defendants are 18 former NBA players — including six-time NBA All-Defensive Team member Tony Allen, former Lakers guard Shannon Brown, Alan Anderson, William Bynum, Christopher Douglas-Roberts, Melvin Ely, Jamario Moon, Darius Miles, Milton Palacio, Ruben Patterson, Eddie Robinson, Charles Watson Jr., Antoine Wright and Anthony Wroten.
Allen’s wife, Desiree Allen, is also charged in the scheme.
Miles collected nearly $62 million during his 11 years in the league, followed by Tony Allen’s $40.9 million, Patterson’s $36.8 million and Big Baby Davis’ $32.2 million.
Telfair, a Brooklyn native and the cousin of former NBA star Stephon Marbury, earned $19.2 million for 10 seasons.
The fraud, which began in 2017 and continued into 2020, resulted in a $2.5 million windfall for the defendants but was halted before the remaining claims were paid out, court papers allege.
The defendants are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare and wire fraud for which they face up to 20 years in prison. Williams faces an additional rap of aggravated identity theft for impersonating the plan’s administrative manager in a call to intimidate another player who had refused to pay the kickback, Strauss said.
Telfair is in custody and scheduled to be presented in Manhattan federal court Thursday afternoon, officials said. Fourteen defendants were arrested in nine other states, where they’ll appear before a judge. Three have yet to be taken into custody, Strauss said.
None of the 19 people named in the indictment could immediately be reached for comment.
“The defendants’ playbook involved fraud and deception,” Strauss said at a press conference. “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 the law.”