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More than 100 ex-police and firemen in New York City and surrounds have been arrested in a sting operation targeted disability fraud for filing false mental illness claims in order to receive federal benefits after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The fraud is believed to have cost the Social Security Disability system hundreds of millions of dollars and the sting operation included many other government workers as well.
Many of the accused claimed suffrage from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and more stemming from the September 11 attacks. Four of the 106 total people indicted are accused of being at the center of the scheme, showing the others how to fill out paperwork and fake symptoms for diagnosis. At the center of the group is a lawyer, Raymond Lavalle, who began his career at the FBI who is believed to have conspired with Thomas Hale, a pension consultant, Joseph Minerva, a former police officer at the Detectives' Endowment Association, and others.
Prosecutors say that the four behind the alleged scam received more than $28,000 in cash kickbacks from each applicant they coached, usually being paid out of the first Social Security check the claimants received.
Evidence that prompted the sting operation began when some of the emergency services officials with SSDI claims made possibly incriminating comments on social media sites. Investigators found incriminating photographs and other posts showing the supposedly incapacitated people doing things their disability claims say they could not.
In a statement, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance condemned the accused: "Many participants cynically manufactured claims of mental illness as a result of September 11, dishonoring the first responders who did serve their city at the expense of their own health and safety."
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