NYC Disability Scam: Retired Cops, Firefighters Among Arrested

Wednesday, 08 Jan 2014 08:55 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A NYC disability scam has led to the arrest of more than 100 retired city employees on Tuesday, most of whom were police officers, firefighters, and prison guards who federal prosecutors allege took part in a scheme that stretched more than 25 years.

Some of the former city employees accused of faking conditions to obtain extra disability pension money allegedly falsely claimed their conditions began after the Sept. 11 attacks, Fox News reported.

The fraud was reportedly orchestrated by four individuals, two retired NYPD officers, a former FBI agent, and a Nassau County assistant prosecutor. The four ringleaders allegedly instructed the retirees on how to game the system, telling them what they should say in order to procure payouts as high as $500,000 in some cases.

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On average, the alleged fraudsters reportedly collected between $30,000 and $50,000 annually.

Tuesday's 100-plus arrests consisted of 72 police officers, eight firefighters, five correction officers and one Nassau County Police Department officer.

"The brazenness is shocking," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said, the Associated Press reported.

The four alleged ringleaders were identified as Joseph Esposito, 64, John Minerva, 61, Raymond Lavallee, 83, and Thomas Hale, 89. All four men pled not guilty to high-level grand larceny charges and were subsequently released on bails that ranged from $250,000 to $1 million.

"I can only express my disgust at the actions of the individuals involved in this scheme," Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.

Bratton replaced outgoing police commissioner Raymond Kelly earlier this month as incoming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio assumed his office.

"The idea that many of them chose the events of 9/11 to claim as the bases for this disability brings further dishonor to themselves," Bratton added.

About half of the 102 defendants falsely claimed that they suffered post-traumatic stress from 9/11, the New York Post reported.

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Over the 26 years in which the alleged scheme took place, the city employees involved reportedly collected upwards of $22 million in bogus benefits, according to authorities.

In addition to Tuesday's arrest, prosecutors estimate that hundreds more people may also find themselves charged at a future date in connection with the scam that potentially involved up to $400 million in total.

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