UPDATED: Social Security Fraud Crackdown Nets Over 100 Including New York Cops, Firefighters
By D.B. Hirsch
January 8, 2014 5:00 am - NewsBehavingBadly.com
This can’t reflect well on the legacy of former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, especially given that this is one of the largest Social Security fraud roundups in history. An earlier version of the article cited eighty arrests, and the total is now well over a hundred (with a strong possibility that the arrests are far from over):
The retired New York City police officers and firefighters showed up for their psychiatric exams disheveled and disoriented, most following a nearly identical script.
They had been coached on how to fail memory tests, feign panic attacks and, if they had worked during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to talk about their fear of airplanes and entering skyscrapers, prosecutors said. And they were told to make it clear they could not leave the house, much less find a job.
But their Facebook pages told investigators a starkly different story, according to an indictment and other court papers.
Former police officers who had told government doctors they were too mentally scarred to leave home had posted photographs of themselves fishing, riding motorcycles, driving water scooters, flying helicopters and playing basketball.
“The brazenness is shocking,” Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said on Tuesday.
The online photos, along with intercepted phone calls and the testimony of undercover officers, were evidence of what officials said was the largest fraud ever perpetrated against the Social Security disability system, a scheme stretching back to 1988 in which as many as 1,000 people — many of them officers and firefighters already collecting pensions from the city — were suspected to have bilked the federal government out of an estimated $400 million.
An indictment unsealed on Monday by the Manhattan district attorney’s office charges 106 people, four of whom are accused of running the scheme. The group was headed by Raymond Lavallee, 83, a Long Island lawyer who started his career as an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and once served as a senior Nassau County prosecutor, court papers said.
Mr. Lavallee worked most closely with two men: Thomas Hale, 89, a pension consultant who investigators say filled out applications, and Joseph Minerva, 61, a former police officer who works for the Detectives’ Endowment Association.