Two former San Antonio Spurs — Melvin Ely and Shannon Brown — are among 18 former NBA players ensnared in an alleged $4 million healthcare fraud scheme.
On October 7, federal prosecutors in New York City disclosed an indictment alleging Ely, who played for the Spurs during the 2006-07 champion season, and Brown, who played for the Spurs in 2013-14, participated in the scheme.
The 18 former NBAers, along with the wife of one of the players, stand accused of bilking the NBA Players’ Health and Welfare Benefit Plan by turning in phony reimbursement claims.
The purported ringleader of the alleged scheme, which stretched from 2017 to 2020, was Terrence Williams. He bounced around the league during his basketball career, including 2010-11 and 2011-12 stints with the Houston Rockets. Authorities accuse Williams of pocketing about $230,000 in kickbacks from players implicated in the alleged scheme.
Others with Texas ties who’ve been charged in the alleged scam are:
- Greg Smith, who played for the Rockets from 2011 to 2013 before a 2014-15 stint with the Dallas Mavericks.
- Antoine Wright, who was with the Mavericks in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
“The defendants’ playbook involved fraud and deception. 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,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan, New York, says in a news release.
Authorities accuse the defendants of submitting false invoices for medical and dental services that they never received. In fact, some of the ex-players weren’t even near the offices where they supposedly underwent treatment, according to the indictment.
In all, the players submitted $3.9 million worth of phony claims, the indictment says. Of those, $2.5 million in claims were paid out and the rest were rejected.
As an example of the allegedly fake claims, authorities cite ones that Smith submitted for IV sedation, a root canal, and crowns that he supposedly received during a December 2018 visit to a dental office in Beverly Hills, California. At the time, though, Smith was overseas to compete in Taiwan’s Super Basketball League, prosecutors allege.
Ultimately, one of the things that caused the alleged scam to collapse was that some of the fake claims and accompanying medical forms were riddled with grammatical errors, were not on official letterhead, and were sloppily formatted, according to the indictment.