More than 100 former New York City workers, including scores of retired police officers, firefighters and prison guards, have been charged with faking psychiatric problems in order to get federal Social Security disability benefits, prosecutors said.
Arrests began earlier today in the two-year investigation, with arraignments following by late morning. Several of the defendants pleaded not guilty to grand larceny charges and were being released without bail.
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 Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits, which requires a complete inability to work.
Prosecutors said many of the defendants “lived lifestyles that starkly contradicted the representations made on their applications.”
One of the defendants 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.
Prosecutors said the scam went back to 1988. Some of the suspects claimed their response to the 9/11 attacks were responsible for their psychiatric condition, including post traumatic stress disorder.
Read more at CBS NEW YORK.