NY's Fallen Heroes: More Than 100 Retired 9/11 Cops and Fire

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NY's Fallen Heroes: More Than 100 Retired 9/11 Cops and Fire

Postby admin » Mon May 20, 2019 1:10 am

NY's Fallen Heroes: More Than 100 Retired 9/11 Cops and Firefighters Busted for Swindling $24 Million in Disability Benefits With Fake Illnesses and Made-up Psychological Trauma Arising From Terror Attack
by Meghan Keneally
dailymail.col.uk
January 7, 2014

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• Received thousands in annual disability compensation from 9/11 disability fund as a result, promising that they retired
• Investigators found that they had second careers and did things that their supposed disabilities wouldn't have allowed them to do
• Cost taxpayers $21.4 million dollars
• Lawyers coached fraudsters on how they should talk about leaving the TV on all day and constantly napping, having trouble grooming themselves

More than 100 first responders who claimed to have psychiatric conditions and medical disorders because of their work at Ground Zero are being arrested today for disability fraud.

The arrests come after the Manhattan District Attorney's office spent more than two years investigating the claims made by some NYPD officers and firemen who were part of the September 11 response and clean up efforts.

The officers submitted forms saying that they had varying disorders like PTSD, anxiety or depression -- claims which were discovered to have falsified.

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Tag team: John Minerva (left), a Detectives Endowment Association consultant, or Joseph Esposito (right), a retired member of the NYPD, would refer the fraudsters to one of two lawyers who were in on the scheme.

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Law on their side: Raymond Lavallee, 83, was one of those two lawyers who then helped process the legal papers which allowed the schemers to get on average between $30,000 and $50,000 per year -- with a nice cut for each of the ringleaders

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Responding to horror: More than a hundred first responders who helped at Ground Zero following the 2001 terrorist attack are being arrested over disability fraud after making false claims of PTSD and depression

ABC 7 reports that many of the retired officers that had said that they were being treated for stress retained their gun licences, which is not allowed if the holder has such a condition.

Another tip off was that in order to receive the benefits, the individuals had to be fully retired and while the majority of them had retired from the New York police and fire departments, many had taken up a second job.

Investigators used photos on Facebook as evidence that the men have taken up jobs ranging from martial arts instructors to helicopter pilots.

Some photos directly contradicted specific parts of the disorders that the responding officers claimed to have.

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Sending a message: Glenn Lieberman is pictured on a jet ski, clearly not as incapacitated as he claimed to be in his benefit filing. He was one of the original 102 people caught in the first bust in January

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Proud: Shannon Tumminello, 42, now lives in Lee, Florida but was claiming disability insurance from the fund

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Not so afraid of crowds now: Joseph Morrone, who said his post-9/11 fear of crowds kept him from working, collected $108,930 in payments and is seen here selling cannolis at the packed San Gennaro festival

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The individuals' claims -- whether they be depression or assertions that they felt unable to spend time with family and friends in social settings -- have not been revealed -- but the District Attorney's office released a set of photos that depict some of the men in question having a great time on jet skis or marlin fishing as examples of their fraudulent claims.

One instance came from an officer, whose name has not been released, that told authorities that his work after the September 11th attacks left him with a debilitating fear of crowds. On Facebook, he was pictured selling canollis at the crowded San Gennaro festival in Little Italy.

The suspicion is that there were a handful of 'crooked' lawyers and doctors who worked with the responders in question and were fully aware of how to 'game the system'.

The four alleged 'ringleaders' were identified first, and it is clear that their positions within the NYPD and background in legal work helped them evade capture for years.

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Moving up north: Unlike many of the fraudsters who retired to Florida, Rich Cosentino moved to New Hampshire, but that doesn't put him out of the scope of the Manhattan District Attorney

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Active: Rich Cosentino collected a total of $207,639 since May 2008

Participants would start out by contacting John Minerva, 61, a Detectives Endowment Association consultant, or Joseph Esposito, 64, a retired member of the NYPD.

Minerva or Esposito would then refer the fraudsters to one of two lawyers who were in on the scheme -- Thomas Hale, 89, and former FBI agent Raymond Lavallee, 83.

All four are charged with first and second degree grand larceny. The 9/11 disability claims are not the first that the four men have had a hand in, as ABC reports that they are believed to have been running disability scams since 1988.

'My client's involvement in this scheme was minimal at best ... he maintains his innocence,' Minerva's lawyer Glenn Hardy told The New York Daily News.

The lawyers put the schemers in touch with two different doctors -- but not after some coaching.

The district attorney laid out a series of different trigger phrases that would help justify an anxiety condition prescription.

They range from 'I nap on and off during the day' to 'my (family member) is always after me about my grooming'.

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Not hurting too badly: John Famularo, 58, lives in Nassau, New York and his alleged disabilities -- which have not been specifically disclosed -- should have prevented him from motorcycling but he proudly posted this to Facebook

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Throwback: Famularo had no qualms about posting this old picture of him in uniform online, and he was far from the only 'boy in blue' that was involved in the scheme

Other possible additions included the lamentation that they were 'healthy, active, productive' people but no longer.

'They're liable to say... spell the word "world," so you go "W-R-L-D." Then they're gonna say "Spell it backwards." You think about it, and you can't spell it backwards,"' court papers report that Esposito said in a recording.

All told, the fraudulent claims cost $24.5 million in taxpayer-funded benefits.

'For years, federal taxpayers have unwittingly financed the lifestyles of the defendants charged today,' district attorney Cy Vance said in a statement which listed all of the 106 accused.

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Busted: Mike Scialabba collected $232,443 from the fund but also broke the rules by working as a helicopter pilot -- a job which would be extremely difficult should he actually have the condition he claimed to suffer from

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Not keeping a low profile: Part of the conditions for disability filings meant that the individuals did not have full time jobs like Louis Hurtado clearly does

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Having his cake and eating it too: Hurtado also brought home $470,395 illegally from Social Security payouts

'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. This alleged scam further depleted the already limited resources available for battling the real and complex conditions of PTSD and depression.'

The case is the biggest bust that was announced since the new Mayor, Bill de Blasio, and his team has been in office, making this the first time in his recent tenure that new police commissioner William Bratton has weighed in on the work of the DA's office.

'The retired members of the NYPD indicted in this case have disgraced all first responders who perished during the search and rescue efforts on September 11, 2001, and those who subsequently died from 9/11 related illness, by exploiting their involvements that tragic day for personal gain,' Bratton said in the statement.
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Re: NY's Fallen Heroes: More Than 100 Retired 9/11 Cops and

Postby admin » Mon May 20, 2019 1:13 am

NYPD, FDNY Members Cashed in on Bogus 9/11 Woe as Part of Massive $400 M Social Security Fraud: Prosecutor
by Shayna Jacobs, Rocco Parascandola, Corky Siemaszko
New York Daily News
January 7, 2014

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Photo from Facebook page of Glenn Lieberman, who is accused of participating in a Social Security disability scam to the tune of $175,758.40 according to the Manhattan DA's office. Lieberman, accused of being part of the crooked crew that soaked taxpayers for $21.5 million, showed his contempt in an undated photo released by prosecutors with a sick grin and two extended middle fingers.

They spat on the memory of the real victims of 9/11.

Dozens of former city cops and firefighters used the 2001 terror attacks as an excuse to fund carefree lifestyles on the taxpayer’s dime, authorities said Tuesday.

The former NYPD and FDNY members — who claimed to have suffered stress-related woes from the World Trade Center attacks — were among 106 people indicted for a longstanding Social Security disability scam, officials said.

A former Brooklyn cop, Glenn Lieberman, 44, became the unwitting poster boy for the sprawling ripoff ring, which includes 71 other retired city cops, eight former firefighters and five ex-correction employees.

Lieberman, accused of being part of the crooked crew that soaked taxpayers for $21.5 million, showed his contempt in an undated photo released by prosecutors with a sick grin and two extended middle fingers.

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The alleged ringleaders of the disability scam that dated back to 1988.

He and the former cops and firefighters were coached by ringleaders to act dysfunctional and steered to shady doctors who helped green-light disability payments of anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 a year, the 205-count indictment charges.

“I can only express my disgust at the actions of the individuals involved in this scheme,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.

He said he was particularly chagrined that 72 former members of the NYPD “disgraced themselves, embarrassed their families.”

“The idea that many of them chose the events of 9/11 to claim as the bases for this disability brings further dishonor to themselves,” Bratton added.

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NYPD retiree Richard Cosentino felt good enough for marlin fishing in Costa Rica.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. suggested there might be additional indictments beyond those announced Tuesday by the time they wrap up the probe. The scammers operated from January 1988 until last month, and some 1,000 people filed fraudulent claims for as much as $400 million, Vance said.

The suspects flaunted their money and carefree lifestyle on social media, apparently never dreaming they would be caught.

“The brazenness is shocking,” said Vance.

Take Lieberman, an ex-Brooklyn South Gangs officer who quit the force in 2006 after 19 years on the job and collected $175,758.40 in disability payments based on a bogus claim of having a psychiatric disorder, prosecutors charged.

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Surveillance photo shows Darrin Lamantia, a cop who retired on a disability claim, playing basketball.

But the ex-cop, who now lives in Palm Beach, Fla., doesn’t look like a tortured soul as he sits on a Jet-Ski and flips a pair of birds in the photo.

Lieberman, who is charged with second-degree grand larceny and criminal solicitation, could not be reached for comment. He faces up to 15 years in prison.

But he was not the only suspect who lived the good life thanks to the fraudulent payments, officials said.

Vincent Lamantia, 43, a retired NYPD officer, used the $150,000 in disability money he collected between May 2010 and June 2013 to “fund his lifestyle,” Assistant District Attorney Bryan Serino said.

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Workers sift through the pile of rubble at the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terror attacks.

“He bragged about what he was doing in a series of YouTube videos,” Serino added.

Richard Cosentino, a 49-year-old retired NYPD officer who now lives in New Hampshire, posted a photo of himself on Facebook with a massive marlin he caught.

“It was an awesome day off the coast of Costa Rica,” he wrote on Sept. 11, 2012, while many New Yorkers were marking the anniversary of the terror attacks.

Prosecutors say Cosentino stole nearly $208,000 between May 2008 and June 2013. He appears happy and functional in his picture.

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This flow chart provided by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office shows the layers of the scam and the alleged ringleaders.

Louis (Shidoshi) Hurtado, a 60-year-old former NYPD officer, has collected a whopping $470,395.20 since June 1989.

But being diagnosed with psychiatric problems didn’t stop him from running his own mixed martial arts school outside Tampa and boasting on its website about serving as a “personal bodyguard” to stars including Sean Connery and James Caan.

Prosecutors said the four ringleaders of the scheme should have known better.

Raymond Lavallee, 83, of Massapequa, L.I., accused of being the brains of the operation, is a former FBI agent who once ran the rackets bureau at the Nassau County DA’s office.

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Civilian worker Joseph Morrone (center) helps dish cannolis at the San Gennaro festival.

Thomas Hale, 89, of Bellmore, L.I., who allegedly served as Lavallee’s right-hand man, is a pension consultant.

Joseph Esposito, 64, of Valley Stream, L.I., a retired New York police officer, allegedly recruited many of the crooked cops and firefighters.

And John Minerva, 61, of Malverne, L.I., also allegedly steered people into the scam. He has been suspended from the Detectives Endowment Association.

The four alleged ringleaders are charged with first- and second-degree grand larceny and attempted second-degree grand larceny. Each faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

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John Stefanowski, an ex-cop, loves golf.

Esposito said nothing when he turned himself in earlier Tuesday.

“While these are serious allegations, we were aware that they were coming,” his lawyer, Brian Griffin, said. “We did not avoid them.”

The lawyers for the other accused ringleaders protested their clients’ innocence.

Minerva’s lawyer, Glenn Hardy, said: “My client’s involvement in this scheme was minimal at best.”

Joseph Conway, who represents Hale, said his client was a “decorated World War II veteran.”

“For the last 30 years, he’s run a legitimate consulting company,” Conway said. “He vehemently denies any wrongdoing.”

Lavallee’s lawyer, Raymond Perini, said his client is a Korean War vet and former G-man who investigated organized crime in New York and Miami.

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John Famularo, an ex-Finest and motorcycle enthusiast, is accused of taking more than $340,000 in the scam.

“He’s denied each and every allegation,” Perini said.

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NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said he can only express his disgust over Social Security scheme.

In an 11-page bail letter addressed to Justice Daniel Fitzgerald, prosecutors said cops seeking to claim a disability would seek out Esposito or Minerva, who would then steer them to Hale and Lavallee.

But it was Esposito who “coached” the applicants on what to say to doctors and urged them to “pretend” to have “panic attacks.”

“You’re gonna tell ’em, ‘I don’t sleep well at night,’ ” Esposito was caught on a wiretap telling one defendant, Jacqueline Powell. “I’m up three, four times.”

Esposito and the other ringleaders got a kickback for every patient diagnosed with a stress-related illness, prosecutors charged. So did at least two doctors who were part of the scam.

None of the doctors involved has been named or indicted but they could face charges at a later date, officials said.

The DA’s office took on the probe after a Social Security official noticed a series of applications that all seem to be written with the same hand and that all had similar diagnoses.

The NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau joined the probe and uncovered the retired officers allegedly participating in the ripoff.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said the union doesn’t “condone anyone filing false claims.”

With Larry McShane

sjacobs@nydailynews.com
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Re: NY's Fallen Heroes: More Than 100 Retired 9/11 Cops and

Postby admin » Mon May 20, 2019 1:14 am

9/11 Disability Fraud Scheme Crackdown Nets Dozens of Arrests
by Sarah Wallace
7online.com/archive/9384207/
Eyewitness News
January 7, 2014 2:27:33 PM PST

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NEW YORK -- Scores of retired New York City police officers, firefighters and prison guards were charged Tuesday with faking psychiatric problems to get federal disability benefits -- with some falsely claiming their conditions arose after the Sept. 11 attacks, prosecutors said.

Four ringleaders coached the former workers on how to falsely describe symptoms of depression and other mental health problems that allowed them to get payouts high as $500,000, said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. The ringleaders made tens of thousands in dollars in secret kickbacks, Vance said.

Among the retirees arrested were 72 city police officers, eight firefighters, five corrections officers and one Nassau County Police Department officer.

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," Vance said.

More than 100 defendants were charged with crimes including grand larceny. Arraignments in the sweeping case began late Tuesday morning, with several of the defendants pleading not guilty and being released without bail.

Claims of government workers feigning injury to get disability benefits have been the focus of sprawling criminal cases before.

Over the last two years, 32 people were arrested in a probe into Long Island Rail Road employees who collected federal railroad disability benefits; at least two dozen have pleaded guilty. The workers allegedly claimed on-the-job injuries, only to be spotted later playing golf and tennis, working out, and even riding in a 400-mile bike race.

Joseph Gentile, an attorney who represents a former police officer, declined to discuss his case specifically. But he also represented one of the people charged in the railroad case, suggested such charges reflect a troubled system for reviewing and approving disability claims.

"A lot of the problems that occur here are because of systematic problems, not because of someone's criminality," he said. While some people may indeed exploit benefits, "by and large, people have a bona fide, legitimate medical injury. The question becomes: Is the medical problem or injury sufficient to sustain the claim for the benefits?"

---

Associated Press Writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.
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Re: NY's Fallen Heroes: More Than 100 Retired 9/11 Cops and

Postby admin » Mon May 20, 2019 1:15 am

Caught in the Act: Workers Collect Thousands in False Injury Claims
by Francesca Ferreira and Elissa Stohler
April 18, 2014

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Every year, countless people rake in thousands of dollars by faking an injury to collect on disability payments. Vincent Lamantia, 43, from Staten Island, N.Y., is allegedly one of those fraudsters.

In online videos, Lamantia appears to be very brazen, giving others advice on how to make easy money. He is one of many former New York City police officers and firefighters who were recently indicted for claiming fraudulent psychological ailments in order to collect social security benefits.

Lamantia allegedly lied about suffering from depression from post-9/11 trauma, and collected nearly $150,000 in disability payments. Despite saying he was too ill to work, he was working for an energy company and traveling to exotic countries, like Indonesia, according to prosecutors.

He is heard in one online video bragging about money coming in at his job saying, “They keep paying us. They keep downloading money every single week. We’re getting emails that said, 'Congratulations, you have money.'"

ABC News approached Vincent Lamantia for comment, but he declined to speak.

Many of the indicted former officers left a trail of evidence posted online, including Glen Lieberman, a retired police officer who claimed mental illness, but was found smiling on a jet ski in a photo posted on Facebook. Lieberman's lawyer told ABC News the photo was taken before he became sick.

Luis Hurtado collected almost half a million dollars for a claimed back injury. But, at the time, he was an active owner and martial arts teacher at “VIP Karate” school in Florida and currently has his picture posted on their website. The defendants in this case all pleaded not guilty.

These former officers are among the many individuals who are accused of claiming a fraudulent injury. Experts estimate that false injury claims cost insurance companies billions of dollars a year, which trickles down to taxpayers and raises their premiums. Questionable claims are up 24 percent from last year.

Cathy Cashwell, from Oak Island, N.C., was another individual accused of wrongfully collecting worker’s compensation. In her 2004 claim, Cashwell said a shoulder injury while working as a postal worker prevented her from standing, running, reaching or grasping.

Yet, she was spotted on the show “The Price is Right,” running up to the podium, jumping in excitement and spinning the wheel. She also posted all her vacation photos online, and was seen zip-lining and hang-gliding on Facebook. She subsequently pleaded guilty to fraud.

Valerie Scroggins, a former New York City bus driver, claimed that a severe shoulder injury prevented her from getting behind the wheel. In 2006, detectives tracked her down in Europe playing drums at a concert with her band, ESG. She pleaded guilty on Sept. 19, 2008 to “attempted fraudulent practices."

Chicago-based private investigator Bob Kiehn makes it his job to catch impostors, with the help of his spy gear. “It’s those people that are raising the insurance premiums…that’s why I do this," Kiehn told ABC News.

Kiehn and his company can save insurance companies millions of dollars a year by detecting fraud.

He’s caught people on camera, such as Marwan Khouri, who reported severe back and neck injuries and yet was seen on video using a pick ax. Khouri's lawyer told ABC News the video does not show the extent of Khouri's injuries. But Khouri was denied all compensation after an insurance commission ruled that he had lied.

There was also a steel worker, who was collecting money for a shoulder injury, but was caught by Kiehn on video working with a power saw to cut through ice while ice fishing.

While Kiehn makes it harder for people to commit these frauds, there are many people who are willing to take that risk.

“The best way and only way of beating the system is completely staying in your house, not leaving for three to five years," Kiehn said.

"Because anything you do outside of that -- and we’re there -- we’re going to get it.”
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