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Feds say 18 ex-NBA players defrauded league health care to tune of $4 million

The three-year scheme involves purported chiropractic, dental and wellness services that were never provided.

MANHATTAN (CN) — With three players still at large, New York's top federal prosecutor announced the indictment Thursday of 18 former professional basketball players and one spouse who are accused of submitting fraudulent reimbursement claims for fictitious medical and dental expenses.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss identified former Louisville star player Terrence Williams as the “scheme’s lynchpin” this morning at a press conference from her office in the Southern District of New York.

A standout player for Louisville from 2005 to 2009, Williams led the team to the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament his senior season before getting drafted 11th overall in the 2009 NBA draft by the New Jersey Nets.

The criminal indictment alleges Williams, 34, provided other former NBA players with phony invoices for medical and dental procedures that they never received, and in return he was paid $230,000 in kickbacks.

Terrence Williams, pictured left in 2010, is among 18 former NBA players arrested on charges alleging they defrauded the league's health and welfare benefit plan out of about $4 million. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Strauss said on Thursday that GPS evidence showed that the players did not actually go to the chiropractic, dental and wellness services for which they had filed false invoices seeking reimbursement from the NBA Players' Health and Welfare Benefit Plan.

Williams himself is accused of filing a claim for chiropractic services he never had and faces one count of aggravated identity theft for allegedly impersonating a person who processed claims in the plan.

The remaining other 18 defendants, including the wife of Tony “The Grindfather” Allen, formerly of the Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies, each face one count of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud. Desiree Allen is the only woman charged.

Prosecutors say that the scheme operated from at least 2017 to 2020, with false claims totaling about $3.9 million. Of that, the defendants allegedly received about $2.5 million in fraudulent reimbursement proceeds.

Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced a criminal indictment against 18 former NBA players for allegedly defrauding the NBA Players' Health and Welfare Benefit Plan by submitting phony invoices. (Courthouse News Service)

In her 20-minute address Thursday morning, Strauss confirmed that 16 of the defendants were in custody. Brooklyn-born Sebastian Telfair was the only defendant who had been arrested in New York and was set to be arraigned in Manhattan later this day, Strauss told reporters.

Tony Allen, Chris Douglas Roberts and Eddie Robinson remain at large, the Department of Justice specified this afternoon. Presentments of other arrested defendants will be taking place in Washington, California, Ohio, Alabama, Illinois, Florida, Nevada, Georgia and Tennessee.  

Among the highest profile athletes taken into custody is Darius Miles, who was the No. 3 pick overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2000 NBA draft and also played for Portland and Cleveland. Before a career-ending knee injury at 27, Miles earned roughly $62 million in total salary over seven seasons from 2000 to 2009.

But a number of legal incidents in post-NBA life have kept Miles' name in the press. In 2011, Miles was arrested at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport for allegedly trying to bring a loaded gun through security. A year later, he was named alongside NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk and St. Louis rapper Nelly in a 2012 collection action in St. Louis County Court, alleging the star-studded group of investors owed $2 million on a promissory note.

Miles filed for bankruptcy in 2016.

Drafted straight out of East St. Louis High School, Miles was quoted in a 2018 article for the Players Tribune as pegging “shady business deals” for what most quickly diminished his pro earnings.

“When you’re young, you think the money is gonna last forever,” he wrote. “I don’t care how street smart you are, or who you got in your corner, when you go from not having anything to making millions of dollars at 18, 19 years old, you’re not going to be prepared for it.”

Other former NBA players named in the indictment are Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Shannon Brown, Will Bynum, Melvin Ely, Ruben “Kobe Stopper” Patterson and Gregory Smith.

U.S. Attorney Strauss said Thursday that the investigation remains ongoing.

Former NBA basketball player Sebastian Telfair, right, departs Manhattan Federal Court, on Thursday after his arrest in a $2.5 million health care fraud scheme. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

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