A sprawling criminal case accusing more than 100 retired firefighters, police officers, jail guards and others of scamming the Social Security disability system ensnared 28 more people with charges Tuesday, including sons of some alleged ringleaders.
The case already involved 106 people and $22 million in what the Manhattan district attorney’s office says were ill-gotten psychiatric disability benefits. Prosecutors had estimated, when unveiling the case last month, that it ultimately could encompass hundreds of people and as much as $400 million.
“These defendants are accused of gaming the system by lying about their lifestyle,” DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement Tuesday. “Their lies were repetitive and extensive.”
The retirees are accused of falsely claiming they had psychological problems so crushing they couldn’t work. Many recipients were advised to link their supposed symptoms to 9/11. Yet some led lives that baldly contradicted their claims — running a martial-arts studio, flying helicopters or traveling overseas.
Two new defendants — Saverio “Sam” Esposito, 48, and Douglas Hale, 53 — are charged with collecting benefits in a fraud their fathers allegedly steered. Their fathers, retired cop Joseph Esposito and benefits consultant Thomas Hale, are among four men accused of coaching the retirees on how to fake symptoms.
Two defendants have pleaded guilty since their arrests in the first wave of charges last month.