More arrests in NYPD, FDNY disabilty fraud scheme

Sandra Bookman reports from Lower Manhattan.
February 25, 2014 3:32:57 PM PST
Dozens of additional suspects are expected to be in court Tuesday in the second wave of arrests related to a massive disability fraud scheme involving retired police officers and firefighters.

At least 28 more arrests are expected on top of the more than 100 back in January.

The new suspects are expected to be arrested or surrender to the Manhattan District Attorney.

Prosecutors made the initial arrests on January 7, taking 106 into custody in the $21.5 million scam.

Most of the new arrests are also retired NYPD and FDNY members.

At least four are relatives of the alleged ringleaders.

The investigating is continuing, and even more arrests are expected in the future.

Investigators said the scam stretched back more than two decades, with the ex-officers and other workers collecting years' worth of benefits for citing mental health problems so severe that they couldn't work at all. The workers were coached on how to portray their problems, reporting that they were so psychologically damaged that they couldn't take care of themselves, prosecutors said.

Many of the officers legitimately had physical disabilities that would have entitled them to state disability pensions, but would not have entitled them to federal Social Security disability insurance, which requires a complete inability to work.

Internal Affairs Chief Charles Campisi said many of the officers exaggerated their psychological trauma to gain the Social Security benefits. Most claimed post-traumatic stress disorder and many said it was because of the Sept. 11 attacks, he said. The NYPD has no information that they weren't actually working after the terrorist attack, just that they overstated the effect, he said.

One of the defendants who said he couldn't work taught martial arts. Another former police officer who claimed he couldn't leave the house worked at a cannoli stand at a street festival. Another claimed depression so crippling that it kept him house-bound but was photographed aboard a Sea-Doo watercraft.

Many said they could not use a computer but had Facebook pages, Twitter handles and YouTube channels, prosecutors said.

"The brazenness is shocking," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)