Officials: Ex-NYPD, FDNY workers charged in massive disability fraud scam

The suspects allegedly faked stress-related disabilities to get tens of thousands of dollars in federal benefits. (1/7/14)

MANHATTAN - Officials say dozens of NYPD officers and FDNY firefighters were arrested today in a massive disability fraud scam.

Prosecutors have charged 106 suspects in the alleged scam. Authorities say half of the applicants falsely claimed to have disabilities caused by Sept. 11.

Prosecutors say four key suspects, including a lawyer and two NYPD officers, helped orchestrate the scam that went on for years.

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Officials say that since at least 1988, the men coached hundreds of individuals on how to convince the Social Security system that they were are unable to perform daily tasks that kept them out of work. Investigators say they snapped pictures of many of those on disability engaged in activities like martial arts and Jet Skiing.

Joseph Esposito, of Valley Stream, and John Minerva, of Malverne, allegedly recruited new participants in the scam. Officials say Raymond Lavallee, of Massapequa, and Thomas Hale filed the applications and received large kickbacks in return. They say the men received $20,000 to $50,000 in cash at locations across Long Island, including Lavallee's Massapequa home.

Attorneys for Esposito and Lavallee say their clients are vehemently denying the allegations. Lavallee's attorney says his client is a lawyer who advocated for all of his clients.

James Hayes, of Homeland Security Investigations, had a message for those that may be involved with the case.

"My office is committed to chasing down every penny that these dishonorable thieves pilfer and will be there for the hard working professionals who suffer legitimate injuries while protecting our city," said Hayes.

Investigators estimate that the total amount stolen from taxpayers could reach $400 million in unlawful payments.

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