Melvin Ely and Will Bynum, both of whom are former NBA players from the Chicago area, are facing fraud charges related to a scheme involving the NBA players’ health care program. The pair will face charges in a federal Manhattan court where the indictment was unsealed.
The indictment names 19 defendants, 18 of whom are former NBA players. The former players are accused of defrauding the Health and Welfare program of nearly $4 million. The fraud was masterminded by former New Jersey Nets star Terrence Williams. Williams was paid kickbacks of about $250,000 to actuate the fraud, while players stole a reported $2.5 in personal proceeds.
While the story by now has made it to major airwaves, details of the prosecution are as of yet unknown. The defendants are facing charges of aggravated identity theft, health care fraud, and wire fraud.
The players are being accused of conspiracy to commit various forms of fraud. Essentially, they submitted false claims to the NBA’s Health and Welfare program seeking reimbursement for injuries that did not exist. In some cases, the players were out of the country when the invoices were submitted.
As part of the scheme, the defendants used fake template invoices from chiropractors to submit claims related to services never rendered. The mastermind was paid a kickback of about 10% and players stole a reported $2.5 million. According to the prosecutors, the invoices stood out because they were not on letterhead, had bizarre formatting, and there were numerous spelling errors.
It remains unclear what charges the defendants will face in conjunction with this fraud, but the ringleader is likely to get the harshest penalties and most time for recruiting others to participate in an illegal activity. Meanwhile, participants will face charges related to the amount of money they stole and uttering forged documents for the purpose of personal gain. Fraud charges generally have five-year statutory maximums but can be stacked quite easily. Every individual fraud can be charged separately meaning that sentences add up in a hurry. In cases like this one, the ringleader can face individual charges while the fraud participants face a single charge each for every bogus claim they made.
Defenses to These Charges
The ringleader will have a difficult time convincing the court that they are not guilty of fraud. However, the participants may be able to claim that they were duped by the ringleader to file these claims. If, however, the claimants knew that the claims were false when they were filed, then they too are guilty of fraud. In a case like this, the defendants would be expected to pay back all of the money they owed on top of resolving the criminal charges against them. Nonetheless, prosecutors must establish what they knew at the time which is easier said than done.
Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney
Facing fraud charges in Chicago? Call David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 to discuss the matter in greater detail and allow us to begin preparing your defense immediately.