Former Louisville men’s basketball player Terrence Williams, a first-round NBA draft pick in 2009, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after leading a multimillion-dollar scam against the professional league’s health plan.
Williams had pleaded guilty last August to federal charges of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. He was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge Valerie E. Caproni, who said Williams used his people skills to entice others to aid in defunding the NBA Players’ Health and Welfare Benefit Plan of more than $5 million after he “frittered away” substantial earnings from his professional career.
In addition to his 10-year prison sentence, Williams was also ordered to forfeit more than $650,000 and to pay $2.5 million in restitution for ripping off the NBA between 2017 and 2021 with the help of a dentist in California and doctors in California and Washington state.
Prosecutors said fraudulent invoices created by the medical professionals were processed by other people whom Williams recruited to defraud the plan, which provides health benefits to eligible active and former NBA players and their families. Profits were generated by claims for fictitious medical and dental expenses.
“You should have had enough money to be set for life,” Caproni told him, “but you don’t.”
Williams, a three-time All-Big East forward who averaged 11.2 points and 6.9 rebounds across 140 games at Louisville, was picked No. 11 in the 2009 NBA Draft by the then-New Jersey Nets. His time in the NBA ended in 2013 and also included stints with the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings.
Williams and 17 other former NBA players were charged in an October 2021 indictment in connection to the case. So far, 13 have pleaded guilty to charges.
Of those who have been sentenced, many have received “time served” or probation, meaning they didn’t have to go to prison. At least 10 of the ex-players paid kickbacks totaling about $230,000 to Williams, authorities said.
For the most part, the ex-players charged had journeyman careers playing for several different teams and never reached anywhere close to the enormous stardom or salary that top players command.
Still, according to The Associated Press, the 18 players made a combined $343 million during their on-court NBA careers, not counting outside income, endorsements or what any may have made playing overseas.
Before the sentence was announced, Williams choked up repeatedly as he blamed his crime on “stupidity and greed.” He said he regretted that his incarceration will keep him from his six children, two of whom are now adults, and blamed his turn toward crime in part on an opioid addiction that developed after he took painkillers to cope with lingering injuries from his professional career.
“I one million percent take full accountability for my role in this case,” he said
The judge, though, said it appeared that he used his big personality to lure friends and others to join him in a scheme to steal money because he didn’t want to seek legitimate employment and was motivated by greed.
“You think first and foremost about yourself and not others,” Caproni said.
Williams has been incarcerated since last May following allegations by prosecutors that he’d threatened a witness in the case.
The Associated Press’ Larry Neumeister contributed to this report.
Reach Louisville men’s basketball reporter Brooks Holton at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @brooksHolton.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Ex-U of L hoops star Terrence Williams sentenced for health care fraud