Eighteen ex-NBA players charged over defrauding league’s health plan of $4m

Eighteen former NBA players have been arrested on charges alleging they defrauded the league’s health and welfare benefit plan out of about $4m, according to an indictment on Thursday.

According to the indictment, the former players engaged in a widespread scheme to defraud the plan by submitting false and fraudulent claims to get reimbursed for medical and dental expenses that were never actually incurred. The 18 players were among 19 people charged in the indictment. It said that the scheme was carried out from at least 2017 to 2020, when the plan received false claims totaling about $3.9m. Of that, the defendants received about $2.5m in fraudulent proceeds.

By late morning, 16 of the defendants were in custody, authorities said.

According to the indictment, the scheme developed after Terrence Williams, who began his career as a first-round pick for the New Jersey Nets in 2009, submitted $19,000 in fraudulent claims to the plan in November 2017 for chiropractic care. The claims led to a $7,672 payout for Williams.

The indictment said he then recruited other former NBA players to defraud the plan and offered to provide fraudulent invoices from a chiropractor and dentist in southern California and a wellness office in Washington state. At least 10 of the former players paid kickbacks totaling about $230,000 to Williams, according to the court papers. A lawyer who has represented Williams in the past declined to comment.

Prosecutors allege that in one instance a former player was playing basketball in Taiwan when he was supposedly getting $48,000 worth of root canals and crowns at a California dental office.

Among those charged was Tony Allen, a six-time all-defensive team selection and member of the 2008 champion Boston Celtics, along with his wife. Allen’s teammate on the 2008 Celtics team, Glen Davis, was also charged. Both men made more than $30m in salary during their NBA careers.

For the most part, though, the former players had journeyman careers playing for several teams and never reaching anywhere close to the enormous stardom or salary that top players command. Still, the 18 players combined to make $343m in their on-court NBA careers, not counting outside income, endorsements or what any made playing overseas.

Another former player charged was Sebastian Telfair, a one-time high school star in New York who was highly touted when he turned pro, though his NBA career with eight franchises never brought the stardom some had expected.