18 former NBA players charged with $ 4 million insurance fraud scheme

Greg Smith had been out of the National Basketball Association for about two years in December 2018, when the former Houston Rockets and...

Greg Smith had been out of the National Basketball Association for about two years in December 2018, when the former Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks forward had what seemed like a long day in a dental office in Beverly Hills. Invoices submitted on his behalf showed that he had received intravenous sedation and root canals, and had crowns placed on eight teeth.

But the bills, totaling $ 47,900, were bogus, federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Thursday.

Mr Smith was actually thousands of miles from California and playing basketball in Taiwan at the time, prosecutors said, adding that they had evidence to prove it, including box scores showing that he had appeared in matches there.

Mr Smith was one of 18 former NBA players who have been indicted for what federal authorities have described as a brazen conspiracy to defraud an extended health care program for current and former NBA players.

Claims submitted by another defendant, Sebastian Telfair – a Brooklyn High School legend who pursued a professional journeyman career – suggested some truly dismal dental problems. His claims showed he had received root canals on 17 teeth in one year, according to the indictment. He pleaded not guilty on Thursday and was released on bail.

“The accused’s playbook involved fraud and deception,” Audrey Strauss, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a press conference Thursday announcing the charges.

“Their alleged scheme has been disrupted and they will have to answer for their flagrant violations of the law,” Ms. Strauss said..

She and Michael J. Driscoll, the head of the FBI’s New York bureau, each added that the investigation was continuing.

Prosecutors said the former players – and the spouse of a player who was also charged – submitted claims totaling $ 3.9 million, and they ultimately received around $ 2.5 million in fraudulent proceeds.

While neither of the defendants was a superstar, several were well-known players, such as defensive stalwart Tony Allen and Ronald Glen Davis, who bore his middle name and was nicknamed “Big Baby”. Both played for the Boston Celtics which won the NBA Championship in 2008.

Another defendant, Terrence Williams, who prosecutors say orchestrated the scheme, had some success during his college days at the University of Louisville, but had a mundane professional career after being drafted in the first round by the New Jersey Nets in 2009.

Mr Williams also received bribes of at least $ 230,000 from 10 of the former players accused of participating in the scheme, according to the indictment.

The defendants have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and electronic fraud, and Mr. Williams has also been charged with aggravated identity theft. The conspiracy count carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, the government said.

Lawyers for many of the defendants could not be identified immediately on Thursday for comment. Mr. Telfair’s lawyer, Deborah A. Colson, declined to comment.

In a statement, the NBA called the allegations “particularly disheartening” and said it would cooperate fully with the investigation. The league’s players union said it was aware of the indictment and was monitoring the case.

According to the indictment, Mr. Williams first submitted a fraudulent claim seeking reimbursement of $ 19,000 for services he allegedly received from a chiropractor in Encino, California. After the claim was approved and he received $ 7,672, he began recruiting more, according to the indictment.

Some of the medical claims made by former players were identical, straining gullibility, prosecutors suggested.

Mr Davis, Mr Allen and a third defendant, Tony Wroten, for example, all claimed to have had root canals on the same six teeth on the same date in April. 2016 – and crowns on those teeth a month later, according to the indictment.

Some of the claims filed under the program have resulted in large refunds, prosecutors said. According to the indictment, four of the former players each received more than $ 200,000 after claiming to have seen the same chiropractor as Mr. Williams. One of the four, Shannon Brown, received $ 320,000.

But the nearly $ 4 million prosecutors said the defendants were looking for in the program is still only a fraction of the tens of millions of dollars some of the defendants have earned during their NBA careers.

Several of the defendants have played at least part of their careers for teams in the New York area, including Mr. Brown with the Knicks and Mr. Williams, Antoine Wright and Chris Douglas-Roberts with the Nets.

Mr Telfair, a cousin of former NBA star Stephon Marbury, graced magazine covers as one of the nation’s top high school players when he played at Lincoln High School in Brooklyn in the early 2000s , even appearing alongside teenage LeBron James on a cover of Slam magazine in 2002. But he was dogged by gun-related legal issues during his professional career, which included early stints with the Portland Trail Blazers and the Celtics.

In 2008, Mr. Telfair pleaded guilty to illegal possession of handguns and was sentenced to three years probation. In 2019, he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for possession of a weapon, this time following an arrest two years earlier, when he was found with four loaded guns and a bulletproof vest.

The indictment released Thursday said that to qualify for the health care program, players must have spent at least three seasons on an NBA team.

This is perhaps one of the reasons why the names of many of those indicted in the program have sparked recognition, and even nostalgia, from dedicated NBA fans – for whom they were like character actors. memorable, albeit minor.

Among those charged was Milton Palacio, a former Boston Celtic, who in 2000 hit a wild buzzer batsman against the Nets after stealing a pass. Now assistant coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, Palacio was placed on administrative leave after the charges were announced, according to a team statement.

The defendants also included promising prospects whose careers failed to reach the peaks they expected, like Darius Miles and Mr Telfair, who were each drafted out of high school.

And there was Ruben Patterson, who spent his rookie year with the Los Angeles Lakers and we said – maybe apocryphal – being called the “Kobe Stopper”, for his supposed ability to slow Kobe Bryant when Mr. Patterson kept him later in their career.

Perhaps the most accomplished player to be indicted was Mr. Allen, who made a number of fully defensive teams between 2011 and 2017. Next year he is expected to play have their number withdrawn by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Sopan Deb contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: 18 former NBA players charged with $ 4 million insurance fraud scheme
18 former NBA players charged with $ 4 million insurance fraud scheme
Newsrust - US Top News
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