(NaturalNews) An ongoing crackdown by the federal government against Social Security and Disability fraud has led authorities to one of their biggest busts yet. As reported by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), more than 100 former police officers, firefighters and corrections officers from New York have been arrested and arraigned for their alleged participation in a scheme that bilked taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The scheme involved at least four primary facilitators who helped more than 100 others file false claims with the Social Security Administration for illegitimate disability payments. Attorney Raymond Lavallee, 83; Thomas Hale, 89, who worked under him as a manager; and former New York Police Department (NYPD) officers Joseph Esposito, 64, and John Minerva, 61, are said to be the four "ringleaders" who made the whole thing possible.
According to reports, these four helped more than 100 other former cops and firefighters file false disability claims after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, claiming "psychiatric injuries" as a result of the chaos. At a recent news conference, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. told the press that each of the defendants being charged claimed that he was unable to work any job due to a severe mental illness, which evidence recently proved to be false.
Lavallee and the three others "coached the applicants on how to describe the symptoms of depression and anxiety during the application process," stated Vance to reporters. "Specifically, they instructed them on how to intentionally fail memory tests, how to dress when they presented themselves and how to present their demeanor," he added, as quoted by WSJ.
Former NYPD cops, firefighters exploited 9/11 tragedy to bilk taxpayers out of millions
The scheme, which had apparently first been hatched back in the late 1980s, gained significant momentum after 9/11, as this disastrous event turned out to be a perfect cover. But it was not until around 2008, some seven years later, when authorities say they began to really catch on to the whole charade, which turned out to be not so well cloaked after all.
First, all of the applicants reportedly filled out their applications almost identically, prosecutors say, which was one of the first apparent signs that something was amiss. Then, all of the handwriting on the applications was virtually identical, with the descriptions of all of the applicants' ailments mimicking one another almost verbatim.
With this evidence, authorities were able to gain access to wiretaps, with which they monitored each applicant's online activities. Far from being disabled, virtually all of these former public servants were found to be living active and unimpaired lives. Photographs revealed many of them cruising around on motorcycles, for instance, and riding jet skis. One man was actually seen running his own martial arts studio and uploading videos of his movements and music to YouTube.
"Many said they could no longer drive or be out of the house for more than a short walk around the block," added Vance, noting that these same individuals falsely claimed on their disability applications that they were unable to perform basic duties like cooking, paying bills, socializing and even grooming themselves. "The investigation revealed lifestyles that were very different."
All four of the "ringleaders" reportedly pleaded not guilty to these and other charges at a recent arraignment, even though it has already been shown that they all received cash kickbacks for their illicit services that ranged between $20,000 and $50,000. They have all reportedly been released on their own recognizance.