Terrence Williams, a former standout player for the Louisville men’s basketball team and a first-round NBA draft pick in 2009, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after orchestrating a sophisticated scam against the NBA Players’ Health and Welfare Benefit Plan. Williams pleaded guilty last August to federal charges of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud, as well as aggravated identity theft. On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Valerie E. Caproni handed down the sentence, highlighting the severity of the crime.
Williams, known for his people skills and on-court talent, managed to entice others to join his scheme to defraud the NBA’s health plan, ultimately resulting in losses of more than $5 million. The talented forward had squandered substantial earnings from his professional basketball career and sought illegal means to sustain his lifestyle.
In addition to the 10-year prison term, Williams has been ordered to forfeit over $650,000 and pay $2.5 million in restitution to compensate for the losses incurred by the NBA health plan. The scam took place between 2017 and 2021 and involved collaboration with a dentist in California and doctors in California and Washington state. Williams recruited various individuals to help create fraudulent invoices for fictitious medical and dental expenses, generating illicit profits from the plan.
Judge Caproni expressed her disappointment in Williams, emphasizing that he had the potential to be financially secure for life due to his successful NBA career but chose a path of greed and deception. The former NBA player was once a promising talent, averaging 11.2 points and 6.9 rebounds over 140 games at Louisville before being drafted 11th overall by the New Jersey Nets in 2009. However, Williams’ career in the NBA ended in 2013 after short stints with the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, and Sacramento Kings.
The case against Williams and 17 other former NBA players was brought to light in October 2021. Of the charged players, 13 have pleaded guilty to various charges related to the scam. Although some players have received lighter sentences, including “time served” or probation, Williams’ significant role in orchestrating the fraud warranted a severe punishment.
It is worth noting that, collectively, the 18 players involved in the scam earned an astounding $343 million during their NBA careers, not accounting for additional income from endorsements or overseas play. While some players had modest careers, none reached the level of stardom or financial success typical of top NBA athletes.
During his sentencing hearing, Williams expressed remorse for his actions, attributing his involvement in the scam to “stupidity and greed.” He also acknowledged that his opioid addiction, which developed after using painkillers to cope with lingering injuries from his basketball career, played a role in his descent into criminal behavior.
The judge, however, was not swayed by Williams’ remorse, pointing out that his charismatic personality was used to manipulate others into participating in the scheme. The judge highlighted that Williams prioritized his own interests over those of others, showcasing a lack of empathy and responsibility.
Williams has been in custody since May, following allegations of witness intimidation in connection with the case. His sentence sends a powerful message about the consequences of fraudulent activities, especially when committed by high-profile individuals in the sports world. The case serves as a reminder that financial success in the sports industry does not exempt one from legal repercussions when engaging in criminal activities.