By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A former National Basketball Association player was sentenced on Thursday to 10 years in prison after leading a “brazen” scheme involving at least 19 players to defraud a league health plan into paying millions of dollars for bogus medical procedures, federal prosecutors said.
Terrence Williams, 36, who played for the New Jersey Nets and three other teams from 2009 to 2013, had pleaded guilty last August to conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan federal court also sentenced him to pay $2.5 million in restitution to the NBA Players’ Health and Welfare Benefit Plan, and forfeit $653,673, in accordance with his plea agreement.
Williams, a father of six, was born and raised in Seattle, and lived there before his October 2021 arrest.
He has been jailed in Brooklyn since May 2022, after prosecutors said he threatened a witness through text messages.
Lawyers for Williams did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Prosecutors had sought a 10- to 12-year prison term, while Williams sought no more than 50 months.
Williams was accused of recruiting players to submit false invoices for medical and dental work that was never performed, in exchange for at least $300,000 of kickbacks.
He was also accused of impersonating a health plan manager who questioned a reimbursement in order to “frighten” another player, who had not paid a kickback, into re-engaging with him.
Prosecutors said at least $5 million of false claims were submitted, with the defendants receiving $2.5 million in fraudulent proceeds.
Questionable cases included invoices that allegedly showed former Boston Celtics player Tony Allen and another player receiving crowns on the same six teeth on the same day.
As the scheme’s leader, Williams “turbocharged the conspiracy,” prosecutors said.
More than half of the 24 people charged in the probe have pleaded guilty court records show. A dentist, a doctor and a chiropractor are among the defendants.
Allen, a six-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team, faces an Aug. 8 sentencing after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge. Prosecutors recommended a prison term shorter than 21 months, citing his acceptance of responsibility and desire to make amends.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Diane Craft)