NEW YORK, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Dozens of people, most of them ex-New York City police officers and firefighters, were charged with Social Security disability fraud Tuesday, authorities said.
The 106 defendants, including 72 former police officers and eight ex-firefighters, are accused of taking taxpayers for up to $400 million over the past 20 years, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said the scam allegedly involved facilitators coaching applicants how to convince the Social Security Administration they qualified for disability payments because they were unable to hold a job because of mental issues.
Vance said about half the defendants falsely claimed their psychiatric issues were caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the Journal said.
The four defendants who Vance alleges directed the scam -- attorney Raymond Lavallee, 83, Thomas Hale, 89, who worked as a manager under him, and former NYPD officers Joseph Esposito, 64, and John Minerva, 61 -- pleaded not guilty Tuesday.