New York, AP – A former first-round NBA draft pick, Terrence Williams, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday for his involvement in a $5 million health care fraud. The judge also ordered Williams to forfeit over $650,000 and pay $2.5 million in restitution.
Between 2017 and 2021, Williams, alongside a dentist in California and doctors in California and Washington state, defrauded the NBA’s Health and Welfare Benefit Plan. They generated profits by submitting fraudulent claims for fictitious medical and dental expenses. Williams enlisted the help of others to process these invoices.
Judge Valerie E. Caproni addressed Williams directly, highlighting his mismanagement of the substantial earnings from his professional basketball career. “You were yet another player who frittered away substantial earnings from the period of time when you were playing basketball professionally,” she stated. Caproni added, “You should have had enough money to be set for life, but you don’t.”
Williams, a former 11th pick in the 2009 draft, played for various teams including the New Jersey Nets, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, and Sacramento Kings before his career ended in 2013.
In his guilty plea for conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud, as well as aggravated identity theft, Williams admitted his involvement in a case that led to criminal charges against 18 former NBA players. To date, 13 players have pleaded guilty, with several receiving “time served” or probation instead of prison sentences. It was revealed that at least 10 of these players paid kickbacks amounting to approximately $230,000 to Williams.
While the majority of the implicated ex-players had modest careers with multiple teams and never achieved the fame or salaries of top players, their actions have had serious legal consequences.
The Costly Consequence: NBA Player Faces Consequences of Fraudulent Scheme
Despite their tremendous earnings on the basketball court, 18 NBA players collectively amassed a staggering $343 million throughout their careers, and that’s not even accounting for additional income from endorsements or overseas ventures.
In a courtroom filled with emotion, former NBA player Williams expressed remorse for his actions, acknowledging his “stupidity and greed” as he tearfully accepted full responsibility for his role in the criminal conspiracy. He lamented that his impending incarceration would prevent him from being with his six children, two of whom are now adults.
Williams attributed his descent into crime partly to an addiction to opioids, originating from the pain he suffered from lingering injuries during his professional career. Profoundly humbled, he stated that he stood before the court with regrets.
However, the judge saw beyond Williams’ tearful confessions, highlighting the manipulation of his charismatic persona to entice others into participating in the fraudulent scheme. Dismissing his claims of seeking legitimate employment, she labeled his conduct as “extortionate and aggressive,” identifying greed as his principal motivation.
Caproni, the presiding judge, mandated Williams’ enrollment in a program designed to impart essential money management skills. Curiously, when pondering Williams’ whereabouts of the extravagant NBA earnings, Judge Caproni speculated that it had been recklessly squandered on frivolous indulgences.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams accused the former college player for Louisville of recruiting medical professionals and others to partake in the criminal conspiracy, enabling him to reap ill-gotten gains through unlawful means. Williams didn’t stop at fraudulent activities; he also resorted to identity theft and even threatened a key witness to further his illicit agenda. As a consequence of these brazen acts, Williams now faces a lengthy term behind bars.
The defendant, who has been in custody since May 2022, found himself in further trouble when prosecutors brought to light his attempts to harass a witness involved in the case through intimidating text messages.