Former NBA players have been charged in a multi-million dollar health care fraud scheme. On Thursday, the former players were charged “with pocketing about $2.5 million illegally by defrauding the league’s health and welfare benefit plan in a scam that authorities said involved claiming fictitious medical and dental expenses” reports ESPN.
Authorities say the conspiracy started in 2017 and the FBI has arrested 15 former players and one of their wives. U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss told a news conference “the defendants’ playbook involved fraud and deception.” Strauss said defendants each made false claims for reimbursements that ranged from $65,000 to $420,000.
The conspiracy was led by Terrence Williams, a first-round pick in 2009. Williams submitted $19,000 in fraudulent claims to the plan in November of 2017 for chiropractic care which ended in a $7,672 payout for Williams.
Williams then recruited other former NBA players to take advantage of the plan and offered to provide fraudulent invoices from a chiropractor and dentist in Southern California as well as a wellness office in Washington state. At least 10 of the recruited former players paid Williams kickbacks, totaling about $230,000.
According to an indictment returned in Manhattan federal court, the former players teamed up to defraud the supplemental coverage plan by submitting fraudulent claims to get reimbursed for medical and dental procedures that never happened.
Strauss said prosecutors have travel records, email and GPS data that proves the former players were sometimes far from the medical and dental offices at the times when they were supposedly getting treated.
In one instance, she said, a former player was playing basketball in Taiwan when he was supposedly getting $48,000 worth of root canals and crowns on eight teeth at a Beverly Hills, California, dental office in December 2018.
The indictment said the scheme was carried out from at least 2017 to 2020, when the plan — funded primarily by NBA teams — received false claims totaling about $3.9 million. Of that, the defendants received about $2.5 million in fraudulent proceeds.