In a bombshell announcement on October 7, 18 former players were charged in a $3.9 million NBA health insurance fraud scam in an effort to finesse the league’s benefits plan, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Among those charged are five former Brooklyn Nets players and one former Long Island Nets assistant coach.
Among those named in the indictment are former Nets draft picks Terrence Williams, Antoine Wright and Chris Douglas-Roberts (who is also identified in the indictment with the alias “Supreme Bey”), as well as former Nets guards C.J. Watson and Alan Anderson. Former Long Island Nets assistant coach Milt Palacio is named in the indictment as well.
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Feds Deem Terrence Williams Ringleader of Fraud Case
Williams, 34, who played with the New Jersey Nets from 2009-10, was the ringleader of the scam who recruited other players to join his scheme, according to the DOJ press release.
Authorities say Williams “orchestrated the scheme to defraud” the NBA Players’ Health and Welfare Benefit Plan, providing other players and one of their spouses with “false invoices to support their fraudulent claims,” according to the press release. The invoices were used in claims for reimbursement for chiropractic, dental and other “wellness” care in California and Washington that was not actually performed, according to the DOJ. In exchange, the DOJ said, the other defendants paid Williams kickbacks totaling at least $230,000.
Each of the 19 defendants was “charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison,” according to the press release. In addition, “Williams is also charged with one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison,” the release states. Authorities allege Williams “used the personal identifying information of an employee of the Administrative Manager” of the plan to perpetrate the fraud.
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Players Were Reimbursed for Services They Never Received, According to the DOJ
The multimillion-dollar swindle was centered around players receiving reimbursements for medical services that they never received, according to the DOJ. The defendants are charged with federal crimes and are scheduled to be arraigned in various federal courts around the country, including the Southern District of New York, the press release states.
According to the indictment, in November 2017 Williams submitted a false claim totaling $19,000 in charges from a chiropractic office and was reimbursed more than $7,600 for the claim. Authorities allege Williams then began recruiting other former NBA players, offering “to provide fraudulent invoices … for medical and/or dental services that they did not receive and for which they did not pay” in exchange for kickbacks to Williams, according to the indictment. Williams also provided fraudulent letters purporting to be from medical professionals to support the claims, according to the indictment.
Authorities say the scheme continued into 2020 before the benefits plan administrator noticed inconsistencies and launched an independent review that found the defendants had not received the claimed services and retroactively denied their claims, seeking repayment of the money they had received for the claims.
The NBA offers these medical benefits to players in an effort for them to have a high quality of life while they are playing and long after they retire. Taking advantage of those benefits and using them for personal gain could end up landing these former players in extremely hot water.