Accused ringleader in NBA health care fraud pleads guilty

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Williams of the New Jersey Nets goes to the basket against Miller of the Houston Rockets during the NBA China Games series in Guangzhou

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The accused ringleader of a scheme involving at least 19 former National Basketball Association players to defraud a league health plan into paying millions of dollars for bogus medical procedures pleaded guilty on Friday over his involvement.

Terrence Williams, who played for the New Jersey Nets and three other teams from 2009 to 2013, entered his plea to conspiracy and identity theft charges before U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan.

The 35-year-old Seattle resident also agreed to pay $2.5 million in restitution to the NBA plan and forfeit $653,673 to the United States.

Lawyers for Williams did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Prosecutors said Williams recruited players to submit false invoices for medical and dental work that was never performed, in exchange for at least $300,000 of kickbacks.

Examples included invoices allegedly showing former Boston Celtics players Tony Allen and Glen Davis receiving crowns on the same six teeth on the same day, and Davis receiving crowns on eight teeth in Beverly Hills although he was in Nevada.

Williams was also accused of impersonating others, including a health plan manager who questioned a reimbursement in order to "frighten" a player who had not paid a kickback.

Prosecutors said at least $5 million of false claims were submitted, with the defendants receiving $2.5 million in fraudulent proceeds.

At least 24 people including a dentist, a doctor and a chiropractor have been charged, with six pleading guilty. Allen and Davis have pleaded not guilty.

Williams could face 10 to 12 years in prison, including a mandatory two years for identity theft, under recommended federal guidelines at his Jan. 25, 2023, scheduled sentencing.

He was jailed in May, after prosecutors said he threatened a witness through text messages.

The defendants who have pleaded guilty also include former players Chris Douglas-Roberts, Jamario Moon, Eddie Robinson and Anthony Wroten, as well as Patrick Khaziran, a Los Angeles chiropractor known as "Dr. Pat."

Douglas-Roberts was the player Williams allegedly tried to "frighten."

(This story corrects ninth paragraph to reflect that six people, not five, have pleaded guilty in the case)

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)