More than 100 accused in multimillion dollar disability-fraud scheme

Jan. 7, 2014 at 11:47 AM
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NEW YORK, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- More than 100 people have been charged in a Social Security fraud scheme that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, New York prosecutors said Tuesday.

Eighty retired New York City police officers and firefighters are among those indicted, the New York Times reported.

The 205-count indictment brought by Manhattan District attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. charges 106 people with collecting between $30,000 and $50,000 a year in disability benefits based on purported psychiatric disorders. Some of the claimants said their disability stemmed from the traumatic events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Four people are charged with running the scheme: Raymond Lavallee, 83, a lawyer and former FBI agent; Thomas Hale, 89, a pension consultant; John Minerva, 61, an official with the New York police union; and Joseph Esposito, 64, a retired New York police officer who allegedly recruited many of those charged.

The four are charged with first- and second-degree grand larceny and attempted second-degree grand larceny.

The other 102 people are charged with second-degree grand larceny and second-degree attempted grand larceny.

A bail letter addressed to Acting Justice Daniel Fitzgerald says the scheme began in 1988 and estimated the fraudulent disability awards ranged from $50,000 to $500,000.

The letter said that over the course of the scheme as many as 1,000 people filed for benefits totaling up to $400 million.

The Social Security Administration has paid out a total of $2.5 million to the 102 people charged, the letter added.

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