“For years, federal taxpayers have unwittingly financed the lifestyles of the defendants charged today,” Vance said. “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 Sept. 11, dishonoring the first responders who did serve their city at the expense of their own health and safety.”
Alleged scam housed in Bellmore
Hale is listed as the chairman and president of TJH Inc., a domestic corporation registered in 1985 with the New York State Department of State, which he operated out of his Bellmore home. Vance described him as a key manager of the scheme, who allegedly coached applicants to falsely describe symptoms of depression and anxiety to doctors to obtain benefits.
As detailed in court papers, either Esposito or Minerva allegedly brought potential applicants into the scheme. The pair would then refer them to Hale and Lavallee, a former assistant district attorney and chief of the Nassau County Rackets Bureau, to submit the Social Security Disability Insurance applications.
Vance noted that although many of the NYPD and FDNY applicants had physical disabilities that legitimately entitled them to state disability pensions, their physical conditions did not entitle them to disability insurance, which requires a complete inability to work. That is why Hale and Esposito coached applicants to claim they had psychiatric conditions, prosecutors said.
Hale and Esposito are accused of telling applicants to falsely claim that they had symptoms of depression and anxiety to doctors they had recruited to build a record of psychiatric treatment over the course of a year. Specifically, officials said, they instructed applicants on how to fail memory tests with plausibility, how to dress and how to act.
Vance said that almost every application included identical descriptions of the applicants’ activities of daily living, such as, “I nap on and off during the day,” “I have the TV on to keep me company,” and “I was a healthy, active, productive person.”