Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. announced that 106 people have been indicated for a massive fraud against the federal Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI) program that resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars from federal taxpayers. The four principal defendants – Raymond Lavallee, age 83; Thomas Hale, age 89; Joseph Esposito, age 64; and John Minerva, age 61 – are accused of directing hundreds of SSDI applicants, including many retirees of the NYPD and FDNY, to lie about their psychiatric conditions in order to obtain benefits to which they were not entitled.

The four men are charged with grand larceny in the first and second degrees, and attempted grand larceny in the second degree. The remaining 102 defendants, all SSDI recipients, are charged with grand larceny in the second degree and attempted grand larceny in the second degree.

“For years, federal taxpayers have unwittingly financed the lifestyles of the defendants charged today,” said Vance. “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 September 11th, dishonoring the first responders who did serve their city at the expense of their own health and safety.”

The alleged scam further depleted the already limited resources available for battling the real and complex conditions of PTSD and depression suffered by first responders and rescuers following 9/11, Vance added. He said federal agents from the Social Security Inspector General’s office worked with assistant district attorneys and detective investigators in his office, as well as seasoned detectives from the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, to crack what he called a “decades-long scam.”

New York City Police Department Commissioner William J. Bratton did not mince words when discussing the case or the defendants: “The retired members of the NYPD indicted in this case have disgraced all first responders who perished during the search and rescue efforts on Sept. 11, 2001, and those who subsequently died from 9/11 related illness, by exploiting their involvements that tragic day for personal gain.”