Source says more NYC police and firefighters to be indicted in PTSD scam
NEW YORK (CNN) — The names of as many as 30 more suspects will be revealed Tuesday in the second round of a massive investigation into disability fraud involving retired New York police officers and firefighters, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Monday.
The widening scandal first broke in January when the Manhattan district attorney’s office, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations and New York police unveiled an indictment that charged retired police and firefighters with scamming the Social Security system by allegedly collecting insurance payments when they weren’t fully disabled.
Some of the 30 additional suspects will be arrested, and others are expected to turn themselves in to authorities, the source added.
An indictment is supposed to be unsealed and details revealed when arrests are made and court appearances take place.
All the defendants previously arrested in the case have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors have said in their cases that more than half the defendants received funds for fraudulent claims of post-traumatic stress disorder in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on the World Trade Center.
“We will chase down every penny that these dishonorable thieves fraudulently pilfered so that the truly heroic firefighters, police officers, medics, and civilians who actually risked their lives on September 11, 2001, and are now suffering because of it, can get the care that they critically need,” said James T. Hayes, Jr. special agent-in-charge of Homeland Security Investigations New York said in January.
The alleged scam spanned more than two decades, with law enforcement officers and firefighters coached on how to behave during doctor visits to qualify for full disability benefits, officials said.
The defendants received up to $50,000 a year because, they claimed, they were no longer able to work, officials said. Many of the claims allegedly involved work-related trauma caused by the 9/11 terror attacks. The 9/11-related claims alone totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Prosecutors said four men at the center of the case directed and coached hundreds of Social Security Disability Insurance applicants, including many retirees of the New York police and fire departments, to lie about psychiatric conditions in order to obtain benefits.
Prosecutors said the defendants were meticulously instructed on how to fail memory tests with plausibility, how to dress and how to behave. Nearly every application included identical descriptions of daily living.
The leaders of the scheme allegedly collected one-time cash payments based on the monthly disability awards, ranging from approximately $20,000 to $50,000, prosecutors said.
Some of those charged had gone on to hold other jobs, even though the full disability they received involved a diagnosis that they were so traumatized they were incapable of performing any kind of work, officials added.
In some instances, prosecutors said, the total amount fraudulently obtained was nearly $500,000 per applicant. The average Social Security Disability Insurance payment to date for the defendants, which included retroactive lump sum payments, was about $210,000.
CNN’s Ray Sanchez and Lorenzo Ferrigno contributed to this story.