Beverly Hills dentists regularly perfect the smiles of social-media influencers and models. What’s curious about the popularity of Unforgettable Smile, Dr. Aamir Wahab’s cosmetic-dentistry clinic on North La Cienega, is that Wahab is set to appear in court early next year for defrauding the National Basketball Association (N.B.A.) out of more than $1 million. His current patients seem not to care that his license to practice dentistry has been put on probation since he was arrested for fraud and then quickly released on bail.
In 2015, Wahab, a bald 42-year-old from Chicago, opened Unforgettable Smile in a nondescript office building in Beverly Hills. His clientele includes well-off L.A. C-listers: singer Latoya Jackson, former cast member of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Lisa Vanderpump, busty swimsuit model Anel “Nel” Peralta Luciano, as well as a slew of celebrity hairstylists and luxury-real-estate agents.
For Wahab’s 156,000 Instagram followers, he posts shots of his clients’ teeth, which he usually bleaches so white they look like they could glow in the dark. His Web site features a collage of selfies titled “Celebrity Smiles,” all of which feature the dentist clad in his trademark black scrubs.
His current legal issues started in 2018, when he entered into a shady partnership with two N.B.A. veterans who, like Wahab, were surrounded by people whose cartoonishly lavish lifestyles dwarfed their own. They were Terrence Williams, 35, who played four seasons in the N.B.A., starting in 2009 with the New Jersey Nets and, later, with the Boston Celtics, and Keyon Dooling, 42, who played 13 seasons with teams including the Los Angeles Clippers and the Boston Celtics.
The N.B.A. offers its former and current players a Health and Welfare Benefit Plan, a reimbursement arrangement for health-care expenses. Through it, players both past and present can be paid back for medical and dental work not covered by the league’s insurance.
While Dooling was a solid basketball player, he wasn’t a standout athlete, and he never landed lucrative partnerships with brands such as Nike or Adidas. But his popularity with his teammates did help him get elected as the first vice president of the National Basketball Players Association (N.B.P.A.) union’s Executive Committee, a title he held until he retired from the league, in 2013. The position gave him insight into the way the benefit plan worked. Quickly, he noticed that players didn’t need a lot of proof to get those medical reimbursements.
A few years after leaving the N.B.A., he and Williams, his former teammate, realized they could submit phony invoices and pocket the reimbursements.
In 2017, before they teamed up with Wahab, Dooling and Williams enlisted Patrick Khaziran (“Dr. Pat”), a sports-therapy chiropractor in Los Angeles, to write invoices for massages and water-therapy sessions that never happened. They brought dozens of N.B.A. players into the scheme, including Eddie Robinson, Darius Miles, and William Bynum. The players had Khaziran write invoices for procedures that cost between $40,000 and $320,000. In exchange, the chiropractor got 33 percent of the profit.
But massages can only be so expensive. Insurance adjusters became suspicious when former N.B.A. star Glen “Big Baby” Davis filed a claim for $215,000 and C. J. Watson invoiced the plan for $250,000. Both were denied. The scheme needed new medical blood.
Dr. Amir Wahab’s clientele includes well-off L.A. C-listers: singer Latoya Jackson, former cast member of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Lisa Vanderpump, and busty swimsuit model Anel “Nel” Peralta Luciano.
Enter Dr. Wahab. According to court records, Dooling knew the dentist from his days playing for the Clippers. The dentist agreed to write phony invoices in exchange for a cut of the cash.
On March 6, 2018, Wahab wrote the first of many invoices for the scheme. For a relative of Ruben Patterson, a retired N.B.A. forward for the Portland Trail Blazers, he claimed to perform endodontic therapy, which is essentially a root canal, on the same teeth five times, and crowns on the same teeth three times. Both procedures are physically impossible to perform multiple times on a single tooth. The plan paid at least $172,830 to Patterson in reimbursements.
When the first submission was successful, Dooling, Williams, and Wahab conspired to expand it. “Let’s make this thing grow sir,” Dooling texted the dentist on April 30, 2018. Wahab replied, “Lol I’m down bro[.] Get me the whole NBA.” In a year, Wahab would allegedly file invoices for at least $1.1 million in fraudulent dental work.
But the players became greedier, and Wahab got sloppier. According to prosecutors, Big Baby filed a reimbursement claim for endodontic therapy done on the same nine teeth in one day. Sebastian Telfair claimed to have undergone five root canals on March 6, 2018, another eight on March 1, 2019, and four more on March 5, 2019, according to court records.
If that absurd number of root canals weren’t dubious enough, players often submitted invoices for services done in Beverly Hills when they were not even in California. According to prosecutors, Big Baby was traveling from Las Vegas to Paris on the same day he purportedly got $27,000 worth of crowns on eight teeth. Wahab claimed to have performed $47,000 of work on Chicago Bulls forward Greg Smith on or around the same day he played a high-profile basketball game in Taiwan.
“Lol I’m down bro[.] Get me the whole NBA.”
Surprisingly, the lazy invoices didn’t undo the scheme; Wahab’s relationship with the basketball players did. In the spring of 2019, the players stopped paying the dentist his cut. Wahab complained in March 2019, in an ill-advised text message he sent to Williams.
Wahab said he wouldn’t write any more bogus bills until he got paid, and Williams exploded, writing back the next day: “You mad about getting money for printing a paper lying to the bitch at the front desk … you really got an issue with me making money doing all the work?” He continued the rant, adding: “We not gonna act like you doing dental work.”
By then, Williams had collected $300,000 in payments, while Dooling took about $350,000. Wahab had made roughly the same amount.
Fed up with the dentist, Williams, as he would later admit, started impersonating a doctor and submitting his own completely fraudulent invoices, which had no letterhead and were full of misspellings. In September 2019, while he was living in his native Seattle, he found Dr. William Washington, a sexual-health-and-wellness doctor who was willing to feign even pricier treatments.
Washington’s invoices for vague services costing hundreds of thousands of dollars made the plan’s administrators suspicious. They denied both claims, and insurance investigators contacted the F.B.I., who began building a case in Manhattan’s Southern District.
Williams was arrested on October 7, 2021, but the feds didn’t go for Wahab, Dooling, and Washington until six months later, on April 27.
Wahab was snagged at his $3 million house in Sherman Oaks, California, where he lives with his children and wife. (When asked about her husband’s alleged crimes, Jomana Asi told AIR MAIL, “I don’t know anything. I don’t want to know anything.”) Two days later, he surrendered his passport and was released on a $75,000 bond secured by his father, Tahir, who lives in Chicago.
Most of the 18 N.B.A. players charged, including Dooling and Williams, pleaded guilty. Khaziran did, too. But Wahab took a different approach.
For roughly seven months after his arrest, the dentist did not plead guilty. He went back to giving porcelain veneers to Beverly Hills women and Instagram models. Wahab also gave his clinic a makeover, renaming it “Smiles by Dr. Wahab.” Presumably, this is so the fraud claims don’t come up when people google it.
Wahab’s attorney, Alex Kessel, wouldn’t comment on his client’s upcoming trial, but he said of his client’s ongoing practice: “[Wahab] needs the money.”
Wahab’s trial was set for January 20. But as it approached, he changed tack. On November 17, Kessel suddenly filed a court notice that the dentist intended to plead guilty.
For now, Wahab’s clinic is still open. On Instagram, he’s all smiles. Perfect ones.
To hear Michele McPhee reveal more about her story, listen to her on AIR MAIL’s Morning Meeting podcast