18 Former N.B.A. Players Are Charged in $4 Million Insurance Fraud Scheme

This is a classic. One wonders how many times these former NBA pros have smirked and spoken the words  “See, what goes around comes around,” about someone else’s downfall, only to then participate in this harebrained scheme themselves! Gets back to that other saying, ie: “What is so easy to see in others is so hard to see in ourselves!”

Federal prosecutors said Glen Davis, Sebastian Telfair and Tony Allen were among the players involved in a plot to file millions of dollars’ worth of fraudulent medical claims.


18 Former N.B.A. Players Are Charged in $4 Million Insurance Fraud Scheme

Federal prosecutors said Glen Davis, Sebastian Telfair and Tony Allen were among the players involved in a plot to file millions of dollars’ worth of fraudulent medical claims.

The former N.B.A. player Sebastian Telfair, right, leaving Federal District Court in Manhattan on Thursday after pleading not guilty.
Credit…Jefferson Siegel for The New York Times

Greg Smith had been out of the National Basketball Association for about two years in December 2018, when the former power forward for the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks had what appeared to be a long day at a dental office in Beverly Hills. Invoices submitted on his behalf showed that he received IV sedation and root canals, and had crowns placed on eight teeth.

But the invoices, totaling $47,900, were fake, federal prosecutors in Manhattan said on Thursday.

Mr. Smith was actually thousands of miles from California, playing basketball in Taiwan at the time, the prosecutors said, adding that they had evidence to prove it, including box scores showing he had appeared in games there.

Mr. Smith was one of 18 former N.B.A. players who were charged in what federal authorities portrayed as a brazen conspiracy to defraud a health care program extended to current and former N.B.A. players.

The claims submitted by another defendant, Sebastian Telfair — a Brooklyn high school legend who went on to a journeyman’s professional career — suggested truly woeful dental problems. His claims showed he had received root canals on 17 teeth in a year’s time, the indictment said. He pleaded not guilty on Thursday and was released on bond.

“The defendant’s playbook involved fraud and deception,” Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference on Thursday announcing the charges.

“Their alleged scheme has been disrupted and they will have to answer for their flagrant violations of law,” Ms. Strauss said.

She and Michael J. Driscoll, the head of the F.B.I.’s New York office, each added that the investigation was continuing.

The prosecutors said that the former players — and one player’s spouse who was also charged — submitted claims totaling $3.9 million, and they ultimately received about $2.5 million in fraudulent proceeds.

While none of the defendants were superstars, several were well-known players, like the defensive stalwart Tony Allen, and Ronald Glen Davis, who went by his middle name and was nicknamed “Big Baby.” Both played on the Boston Celtics team that won the N.B.A. championship in 2008.

Another defendant, Terrence Williams, who prosecutors said had orchestrated the scheme, found some success during his college years at the University of Louisville but had an unremarkable professional career after being drafted in the first round by the New Jersey Nets in 2009.

Mr. Williams also received kickbacks of at least $230,000 from 10 of the former players accused of participating in the scheme, the indictment said.

The defendants were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, and Mr. Williams was also charged with aggravated identity theft. The conspiracy count carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, the government said.

Lawyers for many of the defendants could not immediately be identified on Thursday for comment. Mr. Telfair’s lawyer, Deborah A. Colson, declined to comment.

In a statement, the N.B.A. called the allegations “particularly disheartening” and said it would cooperate fully with the investigation. The league’s players union said it was aware of the indictment and was monitoring the case.

According to the indictment, Mr. Williams first submitted a fraudulent claim seeking reimbursement of $19,000 for services he purportedly received from a chiropractor in Encino, Calif. After the claim was approved and he received $7,672, he began to recruit others, the indictment said.

Some of the medical claims made by the former players were identical, straining credulity, prosecutors suggested.

Mr. Davis, Mr. Allen and a third defendant, Tony Wroten, for example, all claimed to have had root canals on the same six teeth on the same date in April 2016 — and crowns on those teeth a month later, the indictment said.

Some of the claims filed as part of the scheme resulted in large reimbursements, prosecutors said. Four of the former players were each paid more than $200,000 after claiming to have visited the same chiropractor Mr. Williams had, according to the indictment. One of the four, Shannon Brown, received $320,000.

Glen Davis, a fan favorite during a long career in the N.B.A., was among 18 former players charged by federal prosecutors.
Credit…Tim Warner/BIG3, via Getty Images

But the nearly $4 million that prosecutors said the defendants sought in the scheme is still a fraction of the tens of millions of dollars some of those indicted earned in their N.B.A. careers.

Several of the defendants played at least part of their career for New York-area teams, including Mr. Brown with the Knicks, and Mr. Williams, Antoine Wright and Chris Douglas-Roberts with the Nets.

Mr. Telfair, a cousin of the former N.B.A. star Stephon Marbury, graced magazine covers as one of the best high school players in the country when he played at Brooklyn’s Lincoln High School in the early 2000s, even appearing beside a teenage LeBron James on a cover of Slam magazine in 2002. But he was dogged by legal troubles related to weapons during his professional career, which included early stints with the Portland Trail Blazers and the Celtics.

In 2008, Mr. Telfair pleaded guilty to illegal handgun possession and was sentenced to three years’ probation. In 2019, he was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for gun possession, this time stemming from an arrest two years earlier, when he was found with four loaded guns and a bulletproof vest.

The indictment unsealed on Thursday noted that in order to receive benefits from the health care program, players were required to have spent at least three seasons on an N.B.A. team roster.

That may be one reason the names of many of those charged in the scheme prompted recognition, and even nostalgia, from dedicated N.B.A. fans — for whom they were like memorable, if minor, character actors.

Among those indicted was Milton Palacio, a former Boston Celtic, who in 2000 hit a wild buzzer beater against the Nets after stealing a pass. Now an assistant coach for the Portland Trail Blazers, Mr. Palacio was placed on administrative leave after the charges were announced, according to a statement from the team.

The defendants also included promising prospects whose careers did not reach the heights that had been expected, like Darius Miles and Mr. Telfair, who were each drafted out of high school.

And there was Ruben Patterson, who spent his rookie year with the Los Angeles Lakers and was said — perhaps apocryphally — to have called himself the “Kobe Stopper,” for his supposed ability to slow down Kobe Bryant when Mr. Patterson guarded him later in their careers.

Perhaps the most accomplished player to be indicted was Mr. Allen, who made a number of all-defensive teams between 2011 and 2017. Next year, he is scheduled to have his number retired by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Sopan Deb contributed reporting.

Benjamin Weiser is a reporter covering the Manhattan federal courts. He has long covered criminal justice, both as a beat and investigative reporter. Before joining The Times in 1997, he worked at The Washington Post. @BenWeiserNYT

Jonah E. Bromwich is a courts reporter for the Metro desk. @jonesieman

Kirkus Reviews, the gold-standard for independent & accurate reviews, has this to say about

What Goes Around Comes Around:

A stable, positive, non preachy, objective voice makes the book stand apart from others in the genre. A successful guide that uses anecdotes to reveal powerful truths about life.

~ Kirkus Reviews

“The author gives readers not just points or principles to ponder, but real human experiences that demonstrate them!
Kirkus Reviews
Buy What Goes Around at Amazon

“I’ve read a number of books that focus on sharing a similar message, including “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, “The Answer” by John Assaraf & Murray Smith, “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill, and I must say that I find Rob’s to be my favorite. – Sheryl Woodhouse, founder of Livelihood Matters LLC

18 Former N.B.A. Players Are Charged in $4 Million Insurance Fraud Scheme

18 Former N.B.A. Players Are Charged in $4 Million Insurance Fraud Scheme

This is a heartening case! It supports the notion that justice does prevail and what goes around, does indeed come around, The Law of Cause & Effect” in action!  It means a $7 Billion penalty owed to the IRS and I’d guess, considering the fees these folks paid to their tax advisors, they never expected this outcome. Don’t cheer too loudly though. It also means that Principle applies to everyone!

Hedge Fund’s Insiders Agree to Pay as Much as $7 Billion to I.R.S.

The agreement ends a longstanding tax dispute involving a decade’s worth of transactions at Renaissance Technologies, one of the world’s biggest and best-connected hedge funds.

Colombo Family Crime Boss and 12 Others Are Arrested, Prosecutors Say

An indictment unsealed on Tuesday accuses the organization of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort a labor union.

Credit…Jesse Ward


For two decades, the leadership of the Colombo crime family extorted a Queens labor union, federal prosecutors said — an effort that continued unabated even as members of the mob clan cycled through prison, the family’s notorious longtime boss died, and as federal law enforcement closed in.

Over time, what began as a Colombo captain’s shakedown of a union leader, complete with expletive-laced threats of violence, expanded into a cottage industry, prosecutors said, as the Colombo organization assumed control of contracting and union business, with side operations in phony construction certificates, marijuana trafficking and loan-sharking.

On Tuesday, 11 reputed members and associates of the Colombo crime family, including the mob clan’s entire leadership, were charged in a labor racketeering case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

All but two of the men were arrested Tuesday morning across New York and New Jersey, prosecutors said. Another was surrendered to the authorities on Tuesday; another defendant, identified as the family consigliere, remained at large, prosecutors said.

The indictment accuses the Colombo family of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort an unnamed labor union that represented construction workers, using threats of violence to secure payments and arrange contracts that would benefit the crime family.

The charges are an ambitious effort by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to take down one of the city’s five Mafia families. In addition to the union extortion scheme, which is the heart of the racketeering charge, the indictment charges several misdeeds often associated with the mob, including drug trafficking, money laundering, loan-sharking and falsifying federal labor safety paperwork.

Detention hearings for the defendants in Brooklyn federal court continued into the evening Tuesday, as they entered not-guilty pleas to the charges; prosecutors had asked the court to keep 10 of the defendants in custody.

“Everything we allege in this investigation proves history does indeed repeat itself,” Michael J. Driscoll, F.B.I. assistant director-in-charge, said in a statement. “The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well.”

Around 2001, prosecutors said, Vincent Ricciardo — a reported captain in the family, also known as “Vinny Unions” — began to demand a portion of a senior labor union official’s salary. When Mr. Ricciardo was convicted and imprisoned on federal racketeering charges in the mid-2000s, prosecutors said, his cousin continued to collect those payments.

Starting in late 2019, prosecutors said, the senior leadership of the Colombo family became directly involved in the shakedown, which extended to broader efforts to siphon money from the union: for example, manipulating the selection of union health fund vendors to contract with entities connected to the family, and diverting more than $10,000 each month from the fund to the family.

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Andrew Russo, 87, who prosecutors describe as the family boss, is accused of taking part in those efforts, as well as a money-laundering scheme to send the proceeds of the union extortion through intermediaries to Colombo associates. He was among nine defendants charged with racketeering.

Mr. Russo appeared in court virtually from the hospital Tuesday; he is set to be detained upon his release, pending a future bail hearing.

The family’s infamous longtime boss, Carmine J. Persico, died in federal custody in North Carolina in March 2019.

Federal law enforcement learned of the extortion scheme about a year ago, prosecutors wrote in a court filing Tuesday; investigators gathered thousands of hours of wiretapped calls and conversations recorded by a confidential witness, wrote the prosecutors, who also described law-enforcement surveillance of meetings among the accused conspirators.

The authorities said they repeatedly captured Mr. Ricciardo and his associates threatening to kill the union official. “I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids,” Mr. Ricciardo was recorded saying in June.

On another occasion cited by prosecutors in the memo seeking his detention, Mr. Ricciardo directed the union official to hire a consultant selected by the Colombo family, saying: “It’s my union and that’s it.” Prosecutors said his activities were overseen by a Colombo soldier and the consigliere who remains at large.

Much of the activity outlined in the indictment took place while the defendants were either in prison or on supervised release for prior federal mob-related convictions. Theodore Persico Jr., described as a family captain and soldier, was released from federal prison in 2020 and, despite a directive not to associate with members of organized crime, “directed much of the labor racketeering scheme,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Persico, 58, is set to inherit the role of boss after Mr. Russo, prosecutors wrote.

Several of the defendants were named in what prosecutors described as a fraudulent safety training scheme, in which they falsified state and federal paperwork that is required for construction workers to show they have completed safety training courses.

One of the defendants, John Ragano — whom prosecutors say is a soldier in the Bonanno crime family — is accused of setting up phony occupational safety training schools in New York, which prosecutors said were “mills” that provided fraudulent safety training certificates to hundreds of people.

In October 2020, prosecutors said, an undercover law enforcement officer visited one of the schools in Ozone Park, Queens, and received, from Mr. Ricciardo’s cousin, a blank test form and an answer sheet; weeks later, the agent returned to pick up his federal safety card and paid $500.

The purported schools were also used for meetings with members of La Cosa Nostra — the group of crime families commonly known as the Mafia — and to store illegal drugs and fireworks, according to the indictment.

Mr. Ragano wasn’t charged on the racketeering count, although prosecutors also sought his detention pending trial. In addition to the racketeering count, several defendants, including Mr. Ricciardo and his cousin, were charged with extortion, conspiracy, fraud and conspiracy to make false statements.

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.


An earlier version of this article misstated the number of people identified in an indictment as members of the Colombo crime family. It is 11, not more than a dozen.