Sebastian Telfair listed among NBA fraudsters
Former Lincoln High star involved in health care scheme
Seventeen years ago, Coney Island native Sebastian Telfair was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, touted as the smallest player ever to go directly from high school to the NBA.
Now, the former Lincoln High star is just trying to stay out of prison, along with the 17 other former NBA players who allegedly defrauded the league’s health-care plan for retirees out of nearly $4 million, according to last week’s federal indictment.
He left Manhattan Federal Court Thursday with an ankle monitor, less than two decades after landing a six-year, $15 million sneaker deal with adidas.
“The defendants’ playbook included fraud and deception,” said Audrey Strauss, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, last Thursday.
“The players will have to answer for their flagrant violations of the law,” she added.
Retired from the NBA since 2015, Telfair was a legend at Lincoln, where he won three PSAL championships, a state crown up in Glens Falls, N.Y., and the coveted honor of being named Mr. Basketball for New York State.
Though his NBA career was more of a journeyman’s ride through the circuit, rather than that of a player hailed as a superstar from the moment he graced that S.I. cover as the first player at 6-foot even to make the jump from high school to the pros.
He played for eight teams over his 10 NBA seasons and spent a couple of years playing professionally in China, as did his famous cousin and former New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets star Stephon Marbury.
Telfair is accused of producing and submitting fraudulent invoices to the league’s health benefit plan in order to get reimbursed for visits to doctors and dentists that never actually took place.
Terrence Williams, a former first-round pick of the Nets in 2009, is listed as the alleged ringleader in the fraud scheme, which authorities say took place between 2017 and 2020.
Also listed in the indictment are: Glen Davis, Darius Miles, Anthony Alan, Alan Anderson, William Bynum, Melvin Ely, Jamario Moon, Milton Palacio, Ruben Patterson, Gregory Smith, Antoine Wright, Anthony Wroten, Christopher Douglas-Roberts, Shannon Brown and Eddie Robinson.
This is not the type of list anyone expected Telfair to be on when he passed up the chance to go to the University of Louisville on a full scholarship and instead was selected 13th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2004 NBA Draft.
Telfair only spent two years in Portland, but established himself as a reliable player who could come off the bench and energize his teammates.
His current legal troubles come after a pair of weapons charges, one in 2007 in the Bronx and another here in Brooklyn in 2017.
The subject of a book called “The Jump” by Ian O’Connor, which chronicled his years at Lincoln before his pro career began, and a documentary by the same name from noted director Jonathan Hock, Telfair was once a fast riser who appears to be sinking just as rapidly.
I witnessed his greatness first-hand at St. John’s University during the PSAL semifinals and at Madison Square Garden, where he and his Railsplitter teammates cut down the nets after grabbing several city crowns.
But it was after he was done playing professionally that Telfair allegedly became a part of this plot to receive false reimbursements from the league.
And the NBA clearly isn’t pleased.
“The benefit plans provided by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association to our players are critically important to support their health and well-being throughout their playing careers and over the course of their lives, which makes these allegations particularly disheartening,” the league said in a statement last week.
“We will cooperate fully with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this matter.”
That cooperation, coupled with the mountains of evidence against the indicted players, could be enough to send Telfair to federal prison for a stretch.
Or at least get him and some of his former NBA brethren to testify against Williams.
That would be a precipitous fall for a player who made an unprecedented and well-chronicled jump all those years ago right here in Brooklyn.
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