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Over 100 New York City workers, including 80 retired police officers and firefighters, have been charged for their involvement in a multi-million dollar disability fraud scheme, in which they claimed the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 left them traumatized.
The investigation was headed by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who said that there were 106 total suspects, reports Reuters. “The total amount stolen from taxpayers could reach $400 million,” Vance said on Tuesday.
Many of them applied for benefits through the U.S. Social Security Disability Insurance for $30,000 to $50,000 a year for ailments like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. Some claimed that they were so affected by the ailments that they couldn’t leave their homes to work, prosecutors said.
USA Today notes that many said that their ailments began with the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.
New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton released a statement, expressing disappointment in the 72 retired NYPD officers who allegedly took part in the scheme. “The retired members of the NYPD indicted in this case have disgraced all first responders who perished during the search-and-rescue efforts on September 11, 2001, and those who subsequently died from 9/11-related illness, by exploiting their involvements that tragic day for personal gain,” Bratton said.
The scheme actually goes back to the late 1980s. Prosecutors say that Raymond Lavallee, 83; Thomas Hale, 89; Joseph Esposito, 64; and John Minerva, 61 - the four main defendants - began the scheme in 1988 and continued up until last month. Vance’s office claims that they worked to help “many hundreds of applicants to falsely claim disabilities” and that each received $20,000 to $50,000 for their help.
Many of the suspects lived lives of luxury, despite continuing to file for disability benefits. Officials said that 84 suspects are in custody and the rest will be surrendering soon. There could even be more people charged soon.
image: Wikimedia Commons