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Ringleader of NBA health plan fraud strikes plea deal

Former Louisville star basketball player Terrence Williams is the sixth of 19 former athletes to reach a federal plea deal in connection with a three-year fraud on an NBA health plan.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Identified by federal prosecutors last year as the “lynchpin” of a $4 million fraud against a health plan for NBA players, former Louisville star Terrence Williams copped a deal and pleaded guilty on Friday.

The retired Boston Celtics player was the lead defendant of an October 2021 criminal indictment that accused him of masterminding a three-year fraud on the National Basketball Association Players' Health and Welfare Benefit Plan, in which he collected $230,000 in kickbacks after providing other former NBA players with phony claims forms for medical and dental treatments that they never received.

Williams will avoid going to a trial presided over by U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni after admitting on Friday to leading the scheme that armed dozens of former NBA players with phony invoices.

As part of a plea deal in the Southern District of New York, Williams, 35, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud, which carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison; and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison.

His sentencing is scheduled for January 25, 2023.

As part of his plea, Williams agreed to pay $2.5 million in restitution to the plan, and to forfeit $653,672.55 to the United States.

Williams agreed to a stipulated guidelines range in the plea deal between 121 and 145 months’ imprisonment, meaning he will not appeal a sentence of 12 years or less.

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.

While he was on pretrial release six months the indictment,  Williams allegedly texted threats to a witness in case, including admonishments that the witness was “talking way to[o] f[---]ing much,” to “shut the f[--]k up,” and “me spitting in your face is exactly what you’ll see.” A Department of Justice press release on Friday says he has been jailed ahead of the plea deal for a bail violation.

Williams’ attorney, David Stern with Rothman Schneider, did not immediately respond to request for comment on Friday.

In October, then-Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss identified Williams as the “leader of the conspiracy.”

Prosecutors said 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.

The remaining other 18 defendants named in the initial indictment — including former NBA players Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Shannon Brown, Will Bynum, Melvin Ely, Ruben “Kobe Stopper” Patterson and Gregory Smith — each faced one count of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud.

Ex-Chicago Bulls forward Eddie Robinson was the first defendant to plead out of the case in June, followed soon after by former NBA pros Jamario Moon, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Anthony "Tony" Wroten.

In April 2022, the Department of Justice unsealed a superseding indictment that added additional charges in the case against William Washington, a doctor in Washington state; Aamir Wahab, a dentist in California; and Keyon Dooling, retired professional basketball guard now serving as a player development coach of the Utah Jazz.

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