There are very few things aging sports fans enjoy more than remembering the journeyman players of their youth. And at least according to the Varsity Blues scandal, there are very few things the general public enjoys more seeing than celebrities plopped into hot water for poorly executed acts of alleged fraud. These interests collided on Thursday to rock many an NBA group chat when Southern District of New York prosecutors charged 18 former National Basketball Association pros for their involvement in an alleged scheme to bilk a fund for ex-players out of close to $4 million.
According to the indictment, former guard Terrence Williams was the “linchpin” in a scam in which players would submit invoices for fake medical and dental services, then pocket the reimbursement checks from the NBA health-care plan for retired players, which is funded collectively by the league’s 30 teams. In total, the group of 18 racked up $2.5 million in fraudulent proceeds out of $3.9 million in filed claims. Williams was also charged with aggravated identity theft and allegedly received $230,000 in kickbacks from the other players.
The plan was about as well executed as a Knicks’ defense prior to the 2020–21 season. According to the indictment, former Houston Rocket Gregory Smith submitted claims for root canals and crowns in eight teeth at a dentist in Los Angeles — at a time when he was playing pro ball in Taiwan. Other players submitted invoices showing they had root canals done on the same teeth on the same day, while other claims were not on the appropriate letterhead. One had a player’s name misspelled.
The vets involved in the alleged scam are mostly mid-aughts sixth men and benchwarmers. Three-time All-Defensive First Team member Tony Allen, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, and Abraham Lincoln High School legend Sebastian Telfair were among the most notable to be hit with charges for conspiracy to commit health-care fraud and wire fraud, which could carry a max of 20 years in prison.