What's in store for Social Security scammers?
A while back, our disability blog mentioned a massive Social Security disability scammers case. The scheme was led and carried out primarily by members of the FDNY and NYPD. It is estimated that the scheme began in 1988 and, during its more than 25 years, defrauded the Social Security Administration of an estimated $400 million.
While it took a while, authorities eventually caught on, and over 100 retired New York police officers and firefighter were charged with fraud-related crimes in connection with their involvement in the scheme. Four individuals are said to have been the ringleaders who recruited others to file fraudulent claims and coached them on how to get away with it.
Over the past few months, more and more of those charged have been admitting guilt and working out sentencing agreements. As of early September, there were over 90 guilty pleas with 38 cases open and 8 dismissed. One notable guilty plea came from Joseph Esposito, one of the alleged leaders of the scam, who will owe $745,000 in restitution and will likely serve between 1.5 and 4.5 years in prison. Another notable guilty plea from a scheme leader came from John Minerva, who has been ordered to pay $315,00 in restitution and, assuming he cooperates, will be looking at 1 to 3 years in prison.
In contrast, Thomas Hale, another alleged ringleader, who is 90 years old, has yet to plead guilty. His case remains pending, but his son, Douglas Hale, recently pled guilty, so it may only be a matter of time. The younger Hale has been ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution but will avoid jail time if he completes 250 hours of community service.
Unfortunately, a few innocent officers and firefighters have been caught in the net of charges. The 8 dismissed cases noted above were dismissed because the disability claims of the officers and firefighters were legitimate. For these individuals, the dismissal of the criminal cases against them is only the beginning, as most lost their Social Security benefits and must fight to win them back.
For example, Michael Kull, who suffers from PTSD and respiratory illness due to his service at Ground Zero, was wrongfully accused and lost his Social Security benefits as a result. He eventually won them back but it required an excessive number of calls to the SSA by Kull and a supportive legislative member.
Despite the unfortunate side-effects for those wrongly accused, enforcing Social Security disability laws and punishing those who fraudulently obtain benefits is good for the system as a whole. Money that goes towards fraudulent claims is money that cannot go towards legitimate applications and punishment helps deter individuals from filing fraudulent claims and perpetrating the myth that those receiving SSD don’t need it.
If you are disabled and want to learn more about whether you are eligible for Social Security benefits, contact the attorneys at the Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group today for a claim analysis.