By Jennifer Peltz
NEW YORK — A sprawling criminal case accusing more than 100 retired firefighters, police officers, jail guards and others of scamming the Social Security disability system ensnared 28 more people with charges Tuesday, including sons of some alleged ringleaders.
The case already involved 106 people and $22 million in what the Manhattan district attorney's office says were ill-gotten psychiatric disability benefits. Prosecutors had estimated, when unveiling the case last month, that it ultimately could encompass hundreds of people and as much as $400 million.
"These defendants are accused of gaming the system by lying about their lifestyle," DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement Tuesday. "Their lies were repetitive and extensive."
The retirees are accused of falsely claiming they had depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological problems so crushing they couldn't work. Many recipients were advised to link their supposed symptoms to 9/11, prosecutors say.
Yet some led lives that baldly contradicted their claims -- running a martial-arts studio, flying helicopters, traveling overseas, and more, according to prosecutors.
The new allegations are similar: faking psychiatric problems to get Social Security disability benefits. Prosecutors say many recipients were advised to link their supposed symptoms to 9/11.
Two new defendants — Saverio "Sam" Esposito, 48, and Douglas Hale, 53 — are charged with collecting benefits in a fraud their fathers allegedly steered.
Esposito's lawyer, Kira Treyvus, had no immediate comment.
Douglas Hale asserts his innocence, lawyer Keith O'Halloran, said.
"We look forward to fighting these charges in court," O'Halloran said.
The defendants' fathers, retired police officer Joseph Esposito and benefits consultant Thomas Hale, are among four men accused of coaching the retirees on how to fake symptoms and taking tens of thousands of dollars in secret kickbacks. All four deny the allegations.
Two benefits recipients have pleaded guilty since their arrests in the first wave of charges last month.
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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press