According to a press conference with Police commissioner William Bratton, the NYPD mounted a disability fraud case against dozens of police and firefighters who fraudulently sought Social Security disability benefits resulting from the 911 attacks. The investigation resulted in more than half of the 80 911 retired police and firefighters arrested in New York recently. Bratton expressed his “disgust” for the disgraceful behavior of these officers and firefighters.
According to authorities, one of the retired police officers, Glenn Lieberman, received $175,758.40 from Social Security besides his NYPD pension claiming he was traumatized by 9/11, barely able to function and unable to do everyday things such as shop or handle money. A photo showed him on a jet ski, smiling and giving the finger with both hands. Another photo of retired police offer Richie Cosentino, who received $207,639.70 from Social Security, also claiming he was traumatized by the event, posted on his Facebook page showed him fishing and holding a big sailfish off the coast of Costa Rica on September 11, 2012, the anniversary date of 911.
Bratton indicated that the investigation was sparked after Social Security investigators noticed that a number of the retired police who had received disability awards also had applied for pistol permits. The NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau also joined the investigation and found that a number of the individuals had used the same psychiatrist and received similar diagnosis with shared symptom including: “I nap on and off during the day… I have the TV on to keep me company… I was a healthy, active, productive person… I’m up and down all night long… I’m unable to perform any type of work activity in or out of the house.”
Authorities also discovered that many of the individuals had retained the same long Island attorney, Raymond Lavalle, a former FBI agent and at one time in charge of the Nassau County District Attorney’s rackets bureau. According to sources, some of the individuals were referred to Lavalle by John Minerva, who is the disability consultant with the NYPD Detectives Endowment Association. Another disability consultant named Thomas Hale and a retired officer, Joseph Esposito, were arrested for their alleged coaching of the individuals. A telephone conversation on January of last year recorded Esposito telling one of the individuals how to respond to a question that might be asked by a Social Security examiner and doctor. Other surveillance of the defendants shows them engaging in softball activities, teaching martial arts or selling cannolis at a street festival at a time they claimed they were too psychologically traumatized to function in a normal capacity.
Among those arrested were Esposito, Lavalle, Hale, and Minerva who appeared in court before Judge Daniel Fitzgerald. The defendant’s lawyers and prosecutors had already agreed on a $1 million bail for both 81 year old Lavalle and 89 year old Hale, $500,000 for 70 year old Esposito and $250,000 for 59 year old Minerva. Prosecutors advised the Judge that the investigation is ongoing and part of a larger scheme involving these four leaders that dates back to at least 26 years and may involve as many as 1,000 claimants who fraudulently received over $400 million. Currently 102 people have been charged, including 22 civilians as well as retired police and firefighters, who collectively collected a total of $21.4 million. The four main leaders may have pocketed a cut of the retroactive sum of as much as $100,000 that each claimant may have received. The four defendants plead not guilty as did the other defendants.
A New York Social Security Disability fraud defense attorney understands the implications of these charges and is the best person to turn to if you or someone you know has been charged with such an offense.