The American Basketball Association (NBA) is no stranger to scandals anymore. From referee Tim Donaghy’s match-fixing to a series of players like Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose being accused of rape, it seems that these days most of the NBA’s working time is spent “putting out fires”. scandal after one another. But there are few scandals that shake the NBA as strongly as the recently discovered $ 4 million fraud conspiracy.
At the end of 2021, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office (where the NBA is located) released a statement that shocked many people: 18 former basketball players were detained for fraud to appropriate 3.9 million USD health insurance money from the NBA. Prosecutor Audrey Strauss, who is directly leading the investigation, told reporters: “The methods and tricks of the scammers are nothing new, they just have established a ‘spider web’. “extremely tight”.
Among those detained are some notable names such as Anthony Allen, the player who helped the Celtics win the 2008 championship; Shannon Brown, longtime teammate of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant; Darius Miles, former footballer and Hollywood star; Ronald Glen Davis, who has won three titles of the best player of the year. What is more strange is that the mastermind of the scam is not a star but just a B-class player named Terrence Williams. His most effective “assistant” is Desiree Allen, wife of Anthony Allen.
(From left to right) Terrence William, Glen Davis and Tony Allen.
The prosecutor’s office alleges that 18 defendants forged a series of medical examination papers and hospital admission papers to obtain $3.9 million in health insurance payments, of which 2.5 million were disbursed. USD. Terrence Williams was the one who provided fake documents to other players in exchange for commissions. It is estimated that over the past four years, he has received a total of 230,000 USD.
According to a report from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the fake profiles of the subjects often ask the NBA to pay them between $65,000 and $420,000. Terrence Williams and Desiree Allen surreptitiously sold on the social network Telegram each set of fake invoices and other documents that players only needed to fill in their names. The bills were sourced from a bogus acupuncture facility in the name of Desiree’s distant relative.
Prosecutor Audrey Strauss said: “We used location data to firmly identify suspicious cases. For example, in a case Shannon Brown asked the NBA to pay him 48,000 USD in insurance for acupuncture and treatment … 8 decayed teeth in Beverly Hills, California. GPS history, however, shows that Shannon was playing football in Taiwan at the time.”
In court, Terrence Williams confessed to starting the fraud scheme from the beginning of 2017. It is difficult to understand that for such a long time, he and his accomplices continuously escaped from the “eyes and ears” of the internal control agency. of the NBA. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office commented: “Scammers repeatedly commit elementary errors such as, using different fonts on the same invoice, mismatched armor stamps, issuing agency addresses. disagreement, etc.. This shows that there are dangerous weaknesses in the NBA’s self-monitoring mechanism.”
The NBA is once again facing a money-related scandal.
The arrest of the subjects was assigned to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Most of the subjects accepted the FBI’s detention order, except Ronald Glen Davis. The former player locked all the doors to his home, then threatened to open fire on anyone who came near the residence. It took the police nearly an hour of siege and negotiation to make Ronald Glen Davis drop his gun and surrender.
The defendants were charged with insurance fraud and using and distributing fake invoices. The maximum sentence for both of these crimes is 20 years. Terrence Williams was also charged with identity theft, forging invoices and establishing a fake company. With such a high penalty, it is understandable that there has been a “war of words” that has lasted for many months between the prosecutor and the bar association representing the defendant.
The defense attorneys focused on how prosecutors obtained the GPS data of the defendants. According to US law, companies providing satellite positioning services are responsible for keeping the customer’s navigation data absolutely confidential unless the law enforcement agency gives a good reason (such as: national security). Only in that case can the enterprise hand over customer data to the judicial authority.
The details of the investigation are still being kept secret, but there is reason to believe that not all information obtained by the prosecutor’s office is legal. The lawyer representing the player Darius Miles presented evidence that his car had a GPS chip installed. In the event that they can prove that the investigators are the ones who put the chips, it is likely that the court will be forced to conduct a review of the legitimacy of the evidence presented by the prosecutor.
Up to now, only 7 out of 18 defendants have pleaded guilty and asked for acquittal. They were forced to return the money they appropriated, and each individual paid an additional $75,000 in fines. According to observers, it is likely that the court will have to wait until the middle of this year to settle all remaining cases. Currently, the players have paid bail to return to their residences to await the court’s decision.
Former player Terrence Williams, who is considered the mastermind of the scam.
The arrests of the former NBA players come weeks after three American football players, Clinton Portis, Tamarick Vanover and Robert McCune pleaded guilty to health insurance fraud. The mode of operation of the three objects is the same as in the NBA case. They use fake receipts as proof of their purchase of expensive medical equipment such as oxygen ventilators, sonar generators and magnetic scanners. Of the $2.9 million that the subjects asked for the NFL to pay, they received $40,000.
Two consecutive scams have sparked renewed debate over whether sports federations should continue their athletes’ insurance program. Less than 20 years ago, it was very difficult for athletes’ unions to get the union to introduce this policy. Many years ago, there were many cases where the family of former athletes lost their jobs because of the cost of treating their children and grandchildren. Retired athletes often experience lifelong disabilities such as spinal nerve injuries, alzheimer’s, etc., due to injuries during competition.
It is a pity that a good policy of the NBA is taken advantage of by the players themselves.
The vast majority of the public believes that sports federations should continue to help pay for athletes’ medical expenses. A spokesman for the American College Football Association (CFA) said: “In the context of the US’s medical costs are increasing due to exogenous causes, the union’s insurance funds are the way to go. the best way to both support the athletes’ families and help the athletes stabilize their spirits and continue to focus on competing”.
The American sports industry still has to take immediate steps to make sure insurance scams don’t happen again. Recently, the Director of the New York office of the FBI, Mr. Michael J. Driscoll, had a press conference on the state of fraud in the insurance industry. It is estimated that insurance companies in the US have lost $12 billion to scammers over the past two years. This number is expected to increase even more in the context that the US continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic at the same time as the workforce of supervisory agencies is thinned out.
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According to Le Cong Vu (World security)