Organized Disability Insurance Fraud In New York Spans Decades, Reaches Almost $400 Million In Fake Claims
Four Men Accused Of Being Ringleaders In SSDI Scam
January 15, 2014
Prosecutors have charged more than 100 former New York City employees, including 72 police officers and eight firefighters with disability insurance fraud. It is now being estimated that since 1988 as much as $400 million has been paid out for fraudulent disability claims filed by NYC employees against Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
The New York SSDI fraud appears to have been an organized effort, with ringleaders coaching dozens of and policemen and firemen in how to fake mental and physical problems in order to collect disability benefits.
Raymond Lavellee (83), an attorney, is one of four men accused of running the scam. Lavellee, who is also a former FBI agent and Nassau County prosecutor, allegedly worked in conjunction with two former policemen, John Minerva and Joseph Esposito (64). A fourth man being charged is Thomas Hale, a pension consultant.
Prosecutors have stated that the SSDI scam organizers received cash kickbacks of more than $28,000 from each approved applicant that was paid from the beneficiary’s first check from the Social Security Administration.
Many of the fake claims were filed after 9/11 by city workers who purported that the catastrophic events of 9/11 left them unfit to work. Although, certainly, there were emergency responders who suffered disabilities as a result of 9/11, the ringleaders in this disability insurance scam approached workers and coached them in how to fail memory tests, and how to convince doctors examining them that they were disabled. The claimants were also assisted through the application process in order to help ensure benefits would be paid out on their claims.
One of the men accused of filing false claims is Louis Hurtado, who allegedly received $470,000 in disability payments over a 24 year period. Hurtado claimed to have mental problems as well as neck injuries that prevented him from working, however, during this time, Hurtado, who holds a black belt in martial arts, was teaching martial arts classes as well as starring in instructional videos.
Vincent LaMantia (43), a former NYC police officer, has also been accused of filing fraudulent SSDI claims. He filed for long-term benefits on the basis of having crippling mental health problems that prevented him from working. While receiving benefits he promoted himself as a motivational speaker sharing “how to get rich” secrets on YouTube. In 1996, while receiving benefits, he appeared in an issue of Cosmopolitan magazine as their bachelor of the month.
Others who filed claims and who had received benefits continued to work in private jobs while receiving benefits on the basis of being unable to work.