A former National Basketball Association player was ordered to spend 10 years in prison for leading a scheme to defraud the league’s health care plan out of more than $5 million.

Terrence Williams, the 11th overall pick in the 2009 draft, was sentenced Thursday by US District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan. He pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and aggravated identity theft, admitting he led a ring that made false claims for medical and dental expenses.

“Your behavior, of all the defendants in this case, was the most serious by a substantial measure,” the judge told Williams before imposing the sentence.

The former New Jersey Net was one of more than 20 people charged with defrauding the plan, including other former NBA players like Sebastian Telfair, Darius Miles and Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Prosecutors said Williams orchestrated the scheme and made at least $300,000 in kickbacks from the others.

Telfair and Miles have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Davis has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors had asked Caproni to give Williams more than 10 years behind bars for what they called a “breathtaking fraud.” From 2017 to 2021, he recruited former NBA players, forged signatures, impersonated health plan employees and found health care providers to create fake letters of medical necessity to justify procedures. 

Williams, 36, had argued for a sentence of a little more than four years. He said in court papers that his childhood was “shaped by poverty, drug addiction, abuse, parental absence and instability.” Both of his parents were imprisoned when he was young and his father was murdered when Williams was six years old, he said. He also said a basketball injury led him to become addicted to opioids.

“A lot of my bad choices in this case were caused by my opioid addiction, that I was feeding for years,” Williams told the judge before he was sentenced. “The other half was stupidity and greed.”

Williams has already spent a year and a half behind bars. Several months after his arrest, Caproni found that he had threatened a witness and revoked his bail. The time he’s already served will be credited against his sentence.

As part of his plea deal with prosecutors, Williams agreed to pay restitution of $2.5 million, the amount of the loss to the NBA health plan. He also agreed to forfeit $654,000. Caproni said Williams has no money.

The NBA scheme was similar to one in which former National Football League players, including former Washington running back Clinton Portis, were charged in 2019. Portis and the other ex-players were accused of cheating an NFL health care program by faking the purchase of expensive medical equipment like hyperbaric oxygen chambers and ultrasound machines. 

The case is U.S. v. Williams, 21-cr-00603, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan)

–With assistance from Chris Dolmetsch.

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