In early September 2021, the United States Justice Department announced that three retired NFL players had pleaded guilty for their roles in a nationwide scheme to defraud the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan (“HRA”). That scheme involved retired NFL players submitting claims for reimbursement for services that were not medically necessary or not rendered at all.
The NBA had a similar plan that allowed eligible retired NBA players to seek reimbursement for out of pocket medical and dental expenses under the NBA Health and Welfare Benefits Plan (“NBA Plan”). Much like its NFL counterparts, the NBA Plan was not immune from fraudulent schemes seeking reimbursement by plan participants for services that were not rendered.
Earlier today, the United States Department of Justice announced the indictment of eighteen (18) former NBA players—and one spouse—for submitting false claims for medical and dental services. Former NBA player Terrence Williams is alleged to be the ringleader of the scheme, having recruited and coached former NBA players to submit false claims for reimbursement under the NBA Plan, receiving kickbacks from the players, totaling at least approximately $230,000 according to the US Attorney’s Office.
The details of one former NBA player’s role demonstrates the brazenness of the scheme. Greg Smith, a former NBA player, allegedly submitted a false claim for nearly $50,000 worth of dental work that he claimed he had in Beverly Hills, California on December 20, 2018. Investigators determined that Smith was in Taiwan that day, playing basketball for the Bank of Taiwan in Taiwan’s Super Basketball League when the alleged dental services were provided. Box scores even served as evidence to uncover the details of the scheme.
The scheme ran from 2017 to 2020, when the plan received false claims totaling about $3.9 million, of which $2.5 million was allegedly received by the defendants.