18 former NBA players, including ‘Big Baby’ Davis, charged in alleged $4 million health insurance fraud


Eighteen former NBA players, including former Celtics and Clippers player Ronald Glen “Big Baby” Davis, have been arrested and charged with defrauding the NBA’s Health and Welfare Benefit Plan out of nearly $4 million.

The ex-players are accused of submitting false reimbursement claims from around 2017 to 2020 for medical and dental services that were not actually purchased, according to an indictment filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, or SDNY.

Those false claims totaled about $3.9 million, according to the indictment. Players received about $2.5 million in total fraudulent proceeds, with each receiving as little as $65,000 to as much as $420,000.

“The benefit plans provided by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association to our players are critically important to support their health and well-being throughout their playing careers and over the course of their lives, which makes these allegations particularly disheartening,” The NBA said in a statement Thursday. The league noted that it will cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this matter.

The NBA Players Association also said in a statement late Thursday it was aware of the indictment and will continue to monitor the situation.

The FBI arrested 16 of the defendants Thursday morning in 12 districts across the country, said Michael Driscoll, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s New York Field office.

One defendant, former Portland Trail Blazers player Sebastian Telfair, will be presented late Thursday before a SDNY magistrate judge, SDNY U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss added. The remaining players will be presented before judges in their districts of arrest.

The FBI and New York Police Department Health Care Fraud Task Force are conducting an investigation into the scheme, according to Strauss.

Terrence Williams #55 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball during game against the New York Knicks in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2013 at the TD Garden in Boston.

Chris Elise | National Basketball Association | Getty Images

The NBA’s Health and Welfare Benefit Plan provides additional coverage on top of existing medical coverage for eligible active and former NBA players and their families, Strauss said. It is primarily funded by contributions from NBA teams.

Terrence Williams, 11th overall in the 2009 NBA draft by the then-New Jersey Nets, was the alleged ringleader of the scheme to defraud the plan, according to the indictment. 

Williams allegedly recruited other NBA players by offering fabricated invoices to be used in false claims in exchange for the payment of kickbacks to him. According to the indictment, Williams received at least $230,000 in kickbacks from the players.

When one defendant failed to pay for the false documentation in kickbacks, Williams allegedly “tried to frighten the player into re-engaging” by impersonating an employee who processed the health-care plan claims and saying there was an issue, Strauss noted.

Williams also allegedly assisted three of the ex-players — Davis, Charles Watson Jr. and Antoine Wright — obtain fabricated letters of medical necessity to justify some services on which the false invoices were based.

Several of the fake invoices and medical necessity forms stood out because they had “unusual formatting, they have grammatical errors” and were sent on the same dates from different offices, the indictment said.

Strauss pointed out other noticeable errors in the fraudulent documents, noting that former NBA player Gregory Smith submitted invoices for a root canal in Beverly Hills when he was in fact playing basketball in Taiwan at the time.

A few of the false claims were also for identical reported procedures on the same day, according to Strauss. For example, three players claimed to have had root canals on the same six teeth on April 30, 2016 and crowns on the same six teeth on May 11, 2016.

Some of the ex-players charged were instructed to repay the proceeds they received from the health-care plan once it was determined that the claims were false, according to the indictment. Some did while others did not.

Also charged in the case are: Alan Anderson, a former Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers player; Shannon Brown, who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers; and Tony Allen, a six-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection.

Allen’s wife, Desiree Allen, is the only woman and non-NBA player charged in the indictment.

The list also includes William Bynum, who spent most of his career with the Detroit Pistons; Christopher “Supreme Bey” Douglas-Roberts, former player for the then-New Jersey Nets; Melvin Ely, who played for five NBA teams; and Jamario Moon, who played for five NBA teams as well.

Others include: Darius Miles, former player for the Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers; Eddie Robinson, who played for the Charlotte Hornets and the Chicago Bills; Anthony Wroten, who played for the Memphis Grizzlies and the Philadelphia 76ers; Milton Palacio, who played for six NBA teams; and Ruben Patterson, who played for six teams.