Crime Watch

Bellmorite charged in multi-million-dollar scheme


A Bellmore man was recently indicted for his alleged role in what officials described as a massive fraud against the federal Social Security Disability Insurance benefits program, which resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced on Jan. 7 that Thomas Hale, an 89-year-old Bellmorite, and three other Long Island men were charged with one count of first-degree grand larceny, 101 counts of second-degree grand larceny and one count of second-degree attempted grand larceny. The charges stem from an ongoing investigation that lawmakers said revealed that the four men directed hundreds of Social Security Disability Insurance applicants, including many retirees from the New York City police and fire departments, to lie about their psychiatric conditions to obtain benefits to which they were not entitled.

According to the indictment and documents filed in court, Hale was a pension consultant who worked with Raymond Lavallee, an 83-year-old lawyer from Massapequa; Joseph Esposito, a 64-year-old retired New York City police officer from Valley Stream; and John Minerva, a 61-year-old from Malverne who works for the Detectives’ Endowment Association. Officials said they began operating the scam in January 1988.

Vance said that the men worked together to direct and aid 102 other defendants in the case to falsely claim disabilities in order to collect Social Security disability payments, in addition to their public pensions. Court papers allege that the defendants collected between $30,000 and $50,000 annually after fabricating claims that they were incapacitated by serious psychiatric disorders that they suffered because of their jobs. Many said that their conditions — including post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression — developed after they responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Vance noted that 72 of the defendants are also collecting pensions as retirees of the NYPD, eight from the FDNY, five from the New York Department of Correction and one from the Nassau County Police Department.

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