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Former Suns named in NBA healthcare fraud case

Two members of the 2011 and 2012 Suns were involved, as was a player from 2002.

Phoenix Suns v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It seems that the Phoenix Suns players, present and past, continue to find themselves the subject of early morning Woj bombs. Earlier this week the news broke regarding the impasse between Deandre Ayton’s people and the Suns organization relative to his extension.

This morning? Fraud!

Granted, this story wasn’t originally reported by ESPN resident bomber Adrian Wojnarowski, it was simply retweeted by him. The report came from NBC News correspondent Tom Winter, who focuses on police, courts, corruption, cyber security, and counter-terrorsim in the Eastern United States. Both he and Jonathan Dienst, WNBC Chief Ingestive Reporter, informed the masses via Twitter of the arrest of 18 former NBA players who are charged with defrauding the NBA’s Health and and Welfare Benefit Plan.

Per NBC News, the players who are being charged in the case face a count to commit health care and wire fraud. The former NBA players submitted $3.9M in fake claims and $2.5M of that had been paid out.

The defendant in the case allegedly submitted “false and fraudulent claims for reimbursement of expenses for medical and dental services that were not actually rendered,” according to court papers.

U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss named former Nets’ #11 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft Terrence Williams as the “scheme’s linchpin”. 17 other players were named alongside Williams, including three former members of the Phoenix Suns.

Suns Ties

Shannon Brown

A two-time NBA Champion, winning rings with the 2009 and 2010 Los Angeles Lakers, Shannon Brown joined the Phoenix Suns in 2011 as a free agent. The guard played 118 games for the Suns, posting his two best statistical seasons of his career, even though he came off of the bench in 65% of his appearances.

Brown was part of a salary dump at the beginning of the 2013 season as he was traded with Marcin Gortat, Malcolm Lee, and Kendall Marshall to the Washington Wizards for Emeka Okafor and a 2014 first-round pick (who became Tyler Ennis). Brown was waived three days later by the Wizards.

Milt Palacio

Currently an assistant coach for the Portland Trailblazers, Palacio played for Phoenix way back in 2002. Milt was a part of the trade that brought former NBA Champion Randy Brown and some guy named Joe Johnson and a first-round pick (Casey Jacobson) to the Suns in exchange for Rodney Rodgers and Tony Delk. The Suns really hosed the Boston Celtics on that trade, eh?

Palacio played in 28 games for Phoenix, starting one, and averaged 2.8 points. It was a short lived career with the Suns as he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a 2008 second-round pick (Malik Hairston) prior to the start of the 2003 season.

Sebastian Telfair

Probably the most notable name on the list — outside of Glen “Big Baby” Davis — is Stephon Marubry’s cousin, Sebastian Telfair.

Remember the 2005 Through the Fire documentary? Telfair was a highly touted prospect from Coney Island and Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York who chose to bypass college and enter the NBA Draft. Standing just 6’0” tall, the odds were stacked against him and, after being taken 13th overall by the Blazers in the 2004 NBA Draft, did not live up to the hype of his famed doc.

Telfair had a journeyman career in the NBA, and part of that journey landed him in Phoenix for a season-and-a-half in 2011 and 2012. He originally signed as a free agent with the Suns in December of 2011 after the lockout and averaged 6.1 points in 60 appearances (1 start) for Phoenix. He had a solid April in 2012, averaging 10.3 points on 50.8/32.4/85.2 splits.

He averaged 6.0 points in his 46 games in 2012-13, but with Goran Dragic dominating the minutes at the point guard position and the Suns wanting to kick the tires on rookie Kendall Marshall, Telfair was traded to the Toronto Raptors for Hamed Haddadi.

Both Shannon Brown and Sebastian Telfair were teammates on those 2011-12 and 2012-13 Phoenix teams. Telfair has had a checked legal past, including handgun arrests in 2007 and 2017.

What do I remember most about Telfair? He was the first guy to put on the number 31 after Shawn Marion had left Phoenix.

All suspects in the case are innocent until proven guilty and it will be interesting to see the fallout from the allegations.

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