Former New York police officers and firefighters are among 106 people charged over a “massive fraud” worth hundreds of millions of dollars, some in connection with the September 11th terrorist attacks.
The accused allegedly collected tens of thousands of dollars a year in Social Security benefits by claiming they were completely incapacitated by serious psychiatric disorders and other ailments.
But, according to court documents, they were in fact living normal lives – one of the accused flew a helicopter, while another was a martial arts teacher.
Of the accused, 80 were retired police officers or firefighters.
The indictment and court documents showed that four main defendants conspired to help or make hundreds of applicants falsely claim disabilities in order to collect benefit payments and public pensions.
Prosecutors said the applicants claimed that they suffered from a psychiatric condition that prevented them from working, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression.
Two of the four ringleaders of the fraud allegedly coached benefit applicants to falsely describe symptoms of depression and anxiety to doctors they had recruited.
They instructed applicants on how to fail memory tests with plausibility, how to dress, and on their demeanour.