In New York City, criminal defense lawyers should being to prepare their arguments for a newly-discovered scheme involving former police officers, firefighters and city workers. Allegedly, over 100 former workers have been fraudulently collecting disability pay for several years. Some of the workers claimed severe mental illness, but were observed behaving normally and leading normal lives. By lying about their mental conditions, the workers were able to collect thousands of dollars in Social Security benefits per year. Among those accused of the scheme are 72 former police officers, 8 former firefighters, 5 former correction officers and an officer from the Nassau County Police Department. However, prosecutors for this case revealed that there are hundreds more and that they have only just begun to release indictments. Surprisingly, all of those who were defrauding the system received help from two attorneys and two police officers, who accepted cash payments for their assistance. One of the attorney/ringleaders is Raymond Lavallee, who is a Korean War veteran who attended law school on the GI Bill. After working for the FBI and the prosecutor’s office, he opened his own private law practice. Earlier this week, Lavallee and his criminal defense lawyer entered a plea of not guilty for his part in the scheme. According to court documents, Lavallee “would receive thousands in cash payments from successful applicants.” Sometimes the applicants would leave Lavallee’s payment on park benches near his office.
The four “ringleaders” allegedly taught applicants how to show that they were mentally scarred so they could collect $30,000 to $50,000 in benefits per year. The applicants were also taught to claim “that they could not cope with other people or were so mentally disabled that they could not even prepare a meal on their own. They were told to appear [messy] in their interviews” and claim to be sleep deprived. They had been trained on how to fail memory tests and fake panic attacks. The ringleaders knew that if the applicant claimed to be unable to leave their home to find employment due to these mental disabilities, their application would be less likely to be denied.
Prosecutors in the case claim that the applications for disability benefits were all “strikingly similar,” using matching phrases like, “I don’t have interest in anything” and “I am unable to perform any type of work activity in or out of the house.” They also claimed that they could not use a computer or have any type of social interaction, when in fact, some even had personal Facebook or other social media pages.
Keep in mind that the people who made these claims were observed doing things like flying helicopters, working as a martial arts instructor, jet skiing, shopping and even working other jobs. Some even claimed that they were disabled due to 9/11, yet investigations proved that they were nowhere near ground zero on the day of the attack. In a statement made this week, current NY Police Commissioner said that “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.”
For committing the disability fraud, the ringleaders in this case are to be charged with first and second degree grand larceny and second degree attempted larceny. For the other defendants, who were all recipients of disability payments, each will be charged with second degree grand larceny in addition to second degree grand larceny. It is unclear at this time how many of those defendants have retained a criminal defense lawyer. This scheme is the largest yet to be revealed since the Social Security disability system started in the late 1980’s; defendants are estimated to have bilked the federal government out of $400 million.
For those charged in any type of criminal case, it will be very important to speak with and hire a criminal defense lawyer who completely understands all the issues and complexities that go along with your charges. The Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyers at The Mace Firm spends a significant amount of time in criminal courts throughout all over the United States. There are criminal defense lawyers all over the country, but few are like those at our firm who practice criminal defense in Charleston, Miami, Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Island, Surfside Beach, Columbia and several other areas.
If you or someone you know is facing federal criminal or state criminal charges, you will need to speak with an experienced Myrtle Beach criminal attorney. Criminal defense lawyers at The Mace Firm are ready to speak with you about your case. Call one of our criminal defense attorneys to schedule your free consultation.