Lawyer Among Dozens Named in SSDI Benefits Scam

, New York Law Journal

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Raymond Lavallee
Raymond Lavallee, an attorney, pleaded not guilty to charges related to a long-running disability benefits scheme.

The one-time rackets bureau chief of the Nassau County district attorney's office was among four men charged Tuesday with masterminding a scheme to fraudulently secure hundreds of millions of dollars in federal disability benefits (See Indictment).

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said that many of the defendants are retired police officers or firefighters who falsely claimed that their disabling mental or emotional problems were due to their service on and after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Many participants cynically manufactured claims of mental illness as a result of September 11th, dishonoring the first responders who did serve their city at the expense of their own health and safety," Vance said.

Attorney Raymond Lavallee, 83, was identified by Vance's office as one of the chief organizers of the fraud. Lavallee, a solo practitioner in Farmingdale, was an FBI agent from 1952 to 1956 and an assistant Nassau County district attorney from 1967 to 1970 who headed the office's rackets bureau, according to the bail letter filed with the court.

Of the 106 defendants arraigned Tuesday before acting Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Daniel Fitzgerald, 80 are retirees of the New York Police Department or the New York City Fire Department. Six others are pensioners of the city Department of Correction or the Nassau County Police Department.

The disability payments typically ranged from $2,000 to $5,000 per month. The average individual payment to the defendants, including lump sum payments, was about $210,000, authorities said.

In addition to Lavallee, prosecutors said the scheme was also organized by Thomas Hale, 89, Joseph Esposito, 64, and John Minerva, 61.

Lavallee, Hale, Esposito and Minerva appeared together in court at their arraignment yesterday and pleaded not guilty.

Authorities claimed that since the scheme was hatched in 1988, claimants were directed to file claims for Social Security Disability Insurance [SSDI] based on incapacitating psychiatric conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression.

Claimants were brought into the scheme by Esposito, a retired NYPD officer, or Minerva, a disability consultant for the union that represents NYPD detectives, the Detectives' Endowment Association.

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