Dozens of Retired NYPD and FDNY Officers Accused of Faking Mental Illness in Social Security Scheme

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 27:  Members of the New York Police Department (NYPD) take part in a promotion ceremony attended by New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at Police Headquarters on January 27, 2012 in New York City. Kelly appeared in the film "The Third Jihad" Muslim groups are asking him to step down, saying that the film they depicts Islam and its followers in a bad light. The film was shown to hundreds and maybe thousands of NYPD officers for training purposes. Commissioner Kelly refused to answer questions relating to rape allegations involving his son, TV host Greg Kelly.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Photo: Spencer Platt/Spencer Platt/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Manhattan district attorney's office charged 80 retired cops and firefighters in a scheme to fake mental illness for the purpose of getting disability payments from Social Security. According to prosecutors, four men — lawyer Raymond Lavallee, pension consultant Thomas Hale, police-detectives-union official John Minerva, and former police officer Joseph Esposito — helped the retirees claim to be "completely incapacitated by serious psychiatric disorders," including anxiety, depression, and PTSD (some cited September 11 as the cause). They also allegedly coached the claimants on how to appear "disoriented and disheveled" for the doctors responsible for evaluating disability applications, which resulted in payments of $30,000 to $50,000 a year. (The ringleaders received kickbacks, of course.)

To prove the malingering, investigators pulled material from their Facebook and other social media accounts that showed the supposedly too-sick-to-function former officers doing healthy-person things such as Jet Skiing, piloting helicopters, teaching martial arts, fishing in Costa Rica, and "[appearing] in a television news story selling cannoli at the Feast of San Gennaro on Mulberry Street in Manhattan." According to prosecutors, the scheme has been going on for 26 years, with around 1,000 people collecting as much as $400 million over the last couple of decades. More arrests are expected this week. Meanwhile, the people charged with first- and second-degree larceny on Monday are believed to have collected a combined 2.5 million.