On Thursday, Oct. 7, Federal prosecutors announced that 18 former National Basketball Association (NBA) players, including Ronald Glen “Big Baby” Davis, have been accused of swindling the league’s health and benefits plan of nearly US$4 million.
The defendants could face a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison as they are indicted with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and health care fraud.
The defendants include Terrence Williams, Alan Anderson, Ronald Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Anthony Allen, Sebastian Telfair, Shannon Brown, William Bynum, Melvin Ely, Jamario Moon, Darius Miles, Milton Palacio, Ruben Patterson, Eddie Robinson, Christopher Douglas-Roberts, Gregory Smith, Charles Watson Jr., Antoine Wright and Anthony Wroten.
Apart from the above, Anthony Allen’s spouse, Desiree Allen, was also named as a defendant.
According to the indictment, the 34-year-old Williams is the alleged “ringleader.” Williams first submitted a fraudulent reimbursement claim of $19,000 for assistance he apparently received from a chiropractor in Encino, California. The claim was approved and he received an amount of US$7,672.55, after which he began to enlist others.
The ex-players allegedly engaged in the widespread scheme from around 2017 up to 2020. They were accused of submitting fraudulent claims to get compensated for medical and dental procedures that never took place.
The false claims ranged from $65,000 to $420,000 according to U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss. The claims total $3.9 million, from which the ex-players pocketed nearly $2.5 million.
Williams, who orchestrated the years-long scheme, received at least $230,000 in kickback payments from 10 other players as he assisted them in obtaining fake invoices to defend their claims. He has also been charged with aggravated identity theft.
The false invoices were created by a chiropractic office in Encino, California, a wellness office in Washington state, and two dentist offices in Beverly Hills. However, none of the above offices have been charged as they are not supposedly involved according to the indictment.
The conspiracy came to light as several of the fake invoices and medical necessity forms revealed discrepancies in the paperwork. Court documents revealed that “they are not on letterhead, they contain unusual formatting, they have grammatical errors” and were sent from different offices on the same dates.
Ms. Strauss mentioned that in some cases, emails, travel records, and other evidence showed the players presented claims for treatment in medical offices far from their current locations.
She cited the example of Gregory Smith who submitted invoices worth $48,000 for a root canal treatment and crowns on eight teeth in Beverly Hills. However, Smith was nowhere near Beverly Hills at the time; he was actually playing basketball in Taiwan.
In another example, three players, Allen, Davis, and Wroten, allegedly filed for a root canal on the same six teeth on April 30, 2016. In the subsequent month, the trio also claimed compensation for crowns done on the same six teeth.
“The defendants’ playbook involved fraud and deception,” Strauss said in a news conference. “Thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement partners, their alleged scheme has been disrupted and they will have to answer for their flagrant violations of law.”
Arrests have occurred in New York, Illinois, Washington state, Florida, California, Georgia, Alabama, Nevada, and Tennessee. Before they’re brought to New York for trial, the defendants will be asked to appear before judges in the districts they were arrested in.
The accused players have also been ordered to repay the proceeds they received from the healthcare plan once it was discerned that the claims were false. However, not all of them have made the repayment.
The NBA said in a statement, “The benefit plans provided by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association to our players are critically important to support their health and well-being throughout their playing careers and over the course of their lives, which makes these allegations particularly disheartening. We will cooperate fully with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this matter.”
Michael J. Driscoll, head of the New York F.B.I. office noted that the bureau would take the case seriously as the healthcare industry loses millions of dollars each year due to fraud.