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Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Crime Watch
Fraud scheme nets 106 arrests
Manhattan D.A. says Valley Stream man was one of four leaders
By Howard Schwach
Courtesy Manhattan D.A.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. spoke to reporters at the news conference announcing the arrest of the scammers.

A Valley Stream man who is a retired New York City police officer has been charged with joining three others in organizing a Social Security disability scheme that prompted 80 retired city firefighters and police officers to lie about their mental conditions and fake symptoms to obtain benefits to which they were not entitled, Manhattan prosecutors said on Jan 7.

The indictment, brought by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., charges a total of 106 people, four of whom are accused of running the scheme.

The Valley Stream resident was identified in court papers as 70-year-old Joseph Esposito. The other three charged with running the scheme are attorney Raymond Lavallee, 83, of Massapequa, a former assistant Nassau County district attorney; pension consultant Thomas Hale, 89, of Bellmore; and retired NYPD detective John Minerva, 61, of Malverne.

Esposito is accused of bringing multiple applicants into the scheme. According to authorities, he and Hale coached applicants into falsely describing symptoms of depressing and anxiety to doctors, in an effort to build a record of psychiatric treatment. The two specifically instructed applicants how to convincingly fail memory tests, how to dress and how to act, according to the report.

Vance says that Esposito himself received disability benefits. He worked for the NYPD from 1973 to 1990, retiring at the age of 46. He was awarded a disability retirement based on claimed line-of-duty injuries resulting from two motor vehicle accidents. In 1991, he filed for and received further benefits based on “mood disorders.”

According to the report, Esposito received almost $300,000 in disability benefits, in addition to more than $13,000 for his wife and nearly $114,000 for his three children.

Esposito pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Jan. 7. His attorney, Brian Griffin of Garden City, did not return a call for comment.

Raymond Perini, attorney for Lavallee, the alleged ringleader of the fraud scheme, said that his client denies all of the charges and pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

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