Amid the heartache, flag-waving and furious calls for vengeance that followed the horrific terrorist attacks on the United States Sept. 11, 2001, seeds were being planted for what The New York Times called the largest Social Security disability program scam ever.
Between 70 and 80 mostly retired police officers were among the 100 indicted yesterday for defrauding the government with phony claims of mental and physical health problems they allege stemmed from their experiences with the 9/11 rescue efforts. As many as 1,000 people are being probed for alleged involvement in the scams as part of an investigation that has spanned 26 years. The cost of SSDI for the first 100 indicted total $21.4 million, according to The New York Times; it's estimated that the cost to taxpapers could reach $400 million.
From The Times story:
“The retired New York City police officers and firefighters showed up for their psychiatric exams disheveled and disoriented, most following a nearly identical script. They had been coached on how to fail memory tests, feign panic attacks and, if they had worked during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to talk about their fear of airplanes and entering skyscrapers, prosecutors said. And they were told to make it clear they could not leave the house, much less find a job.
But their Facebook pages told investigators a starkly different story, according to an indictment and other court papers. Former police officers who had told government doctors they were too mentally scarred to leave home had posted photographs of themselves fishing, riding motorcycles, driving water scooters, flying helicopters and playing basketball.
'The brazenness is shocking,' Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said on Tuesday.”
Christian Science Monitor reporter Elizabeth Barber identified the four ringleaders who coached colleagues on how to fake qualification for SSDI payments as John Minerva, an official of the union representing New York City police detectives; Raymond Lavalle, a lawyer; Joseph Esposito, a retired police officer; and Thomas Hale, a pension consultant.
Fox News is not really my Banter beat, but I checked out their coverage on the scandal so far and was surprised that President Obama hasn't yet been blamed for this massive government bilking. (As last year, Richard Finger blamed poor people and Obama for bloated SSDI payments in a blog for Forbes.com, writing "In times of tepid job growth, like now for instance, wages are often stagnant, so if there is a choice between working at minimum wage vs. doing nothing and earning almost equal amounts, sloth trumps exertion much more often than not.")
Attorney Dan Schorr told Fox News's Shephard Smith that the four alleged organizers in the case face up to 25 years in prison for first-degree grand larceny; the others could receive 15-year sentences for grand larceny in the second degree.
Strangely, Smith then inquires whether any of those charged, if convicted, could be made to do "some sort of work" for their "bad deeds." Maybe free firefighting? Picking up trash around the 9/11 Memorial? Anything but defrauding the country for millions of dollars?