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Sources: 28 More Arrests Expected In Disability Scheme

Defendants Expected To Include Retired Cops, Firefighters
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Alleged Social Security scammers John Minerva, Thomas Hale, Joseph Esposito, Raymond Lavallee. (credit: Jane Rosenberg)

Alleged Social Security scammers John Minerva, Thomas Hale, Joseph Esposito, Raymond Lavallee. (credit: Jane Rosenberg)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Twenty-eight more people — included retired police officers and firefighters — are expected to be arrested Tuesday in connection with a massive social security fraud, sources tell 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern.

The arrests will be Round 2 of the sweep that began last month, when more than 100 people were nabbed for allegedly filing claims for disabilities that did not exist.

The new suspects will include former NYPD cop Sam Esposito, whose father, Joseph, was charged last month with being one of the scheme’s ringleaders, sources said.

Prosecutors say the fraud could be as large as $400 million, with hundreds of additional arrests possible following a two-year investigation.

In the first wave of arrests, 72 former NYPD cops and eight retired firefighters were among the 106 defendants charged with scamming Social Security Disability Insurance by falsely claiming they were homebound due to psychiatric impairment.

District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance said four ringleaders coached the officers on how to falsely describe symptoms of depression and other mental health problems that would make them eligible for benefits that require a complete inability to work. The four alleged leaders are expected to face additional charges Tuesday.

“For years, federal taxpayers have unwittingly financed the lifestyles of the defendants charged today,” Vance said last month. “The Social Security Disability safety net exists to help those who are unable to help themselves. Many participants cynically manufactured claims of mental illness as a result of Sept. 11, dishonoring the first responders who did serve their City at the expense of their own health and safety.”

Prosecutors said many of the defendants “lived lifestyles that starkly contradicted the representations made on their applications.”

Undercover investigators checked social media posts and financial records to expose the alleged fraud.

One of the defendants charged in January who said he couldn’t work taught martial arts; another piloted a helicopter; another former police officer who claimed he couldn’t leave the house worked at a cannoli stand at the San Gennaro Festival, prosecutors said.

The defendants received payouts as high as $500,000 from claims they made, and Vance said the ringleaders made tens of thousands in secret kickbacks.

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