How much of a problem is disability fraud?
Recently, a retired NYPD officer was convicted in connection with a massive $400 disability fraud scheme. The officer was among more than 100 people who were indicted by the New York District Attorney in 2014. The retired cop filed a false SSDI application, claiming to be suffering from a mental illness. From 2005 to 2013, he collected $2,000 a month that topped out at $200,000 in ill gotten benefits.
The key players in the scheme included a retired NYPD officer, a disability consultant to the police union, an attorney and a pension consultant. These individuals helped over 100 people, including many police officers and firefighters, apply for disability benefits and coached them on how to mimic the symptoms of depression and PTSD. Many of the applicants claimed their disabilities were related to the 911 attacks.
The four defendants entered guilty pleas and were subsequently convicted of charges ranging from conspiracy to grand larceny (the latter can result in sentences of up to 25 years in prison). The police officer in this case was convicted of grand larceny in the second degree that could lead to a 15 year prison sentence.
“This defendant, like others convicted in connection with this scheme, purposefully sought out individuals who could help him fraudulently obtain benefits to which he was not entitled,” said New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
This scam was exposed after many of the people involved were living lifestyles that did not jibe with their disability applications. While claiming to be unable to work, online photos revealed them working in a variety of roles that the DA termed brazen.
The sad part of this is that the individuals involved in the scheme may have deprived other police officers of benefits who have legitimate disabilities. That being said, despite the number of people indicted in this case, disability fraud is the exception, not the rule. In the end, anyone who is suffering from a physical or mental illness and is unable to work should speak with an experienced disability attorney to obtain the benefits they deserve.