Written by Steve Mosco, email@example.com Thursday, 16 January 2014 09:31
After a Massapequa man was accused of being the mastermind behind a social security scam that bilked taxpayers out of more than $400 million since 1988, his lawyer denied the allegations and vowed to clear his client’s name
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office named Massapequan Raymond Lavallee, 83, and three other Long Islanders, as the four principal defendants among 106 individuals indicted in a massive fraud scheme against the Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits program.
“My client stood up in court and said not guilty,” said Raymond Perini, attorney for Lavallee. “He denies each and every allegation in this indictment. An indictment is proof of nothing. Allegations are easy to make, but hard to prove.”
Perini said his client served as a combat veteran in the Korean War, went to law school on the G.I. Bill, and then fought organized crime as an FBI agent before retiring in rackets bureau at the Nassau County District Attorney’s office and opening a private law practice.
“He had a good reputation in that world,” said Perini, adding that his client is due back in court Feb. 7. “We intend on getting that reputation back in the court room and showing the world that he did not do this.”
Along with Lavallee, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. named Thomas Hale, 89, of Bellmore; Joseph Esposito, 64, of Valley Stream; and John Minerva, 61, of Malverne as ringleaders accused of directing hundreds of SSDI applicants, including many retirees of the NYPD and FDNY, to lie about their psychiatric conditions in order to obtain benefits to which they were not entitled.
Many of the defendants even lied about enduring psychological trauma as a result of September 11, 2001.
“For years, federal taxpayers have unwittingly financed the lifestyles of the defendants charged today,” said Vance. “The Social Security Disability safety net exists to help those who are unable to help themselves. Many participants cynically manufactured claims of mental illness as a result of September 11 , dishonoring the first responders who did serve their City at the expense of their own health and safety. This alleged scam further depleted the already limited resources available for battling the real and complex conditions of PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] and depression.”
The four alleged ringleaders are charged with first- and second-degree grand larceny and second-degree attempted grand larceny. The remaining 102 defendants, all SSDI recipients, are charged with second-degree grand larceny and second-degree attempted grand larceny.
According to the indictment, the retirees claimed to suffer from severe mental problems that kept them from working, using a computer and even from leaving the house. But Vance said records obtained by investigators showed one defendant piloted a helicopter, another worked at a cannoli stand at Manhattan’s San Gennaro Festival, another rode a jet ski and one defendant taught and performed mixed martial arts.
Lavallee is accused of overseeing the operation to solicit and assist other defendants in falsely claiming disabilities. Prosecutors also allege that Lavallee pocketed $6,000 as attorney fees for every successful fraudulent claim.
According to court papers, applicants were typically brought into the scheme by Esposito, a retired member of the NYPD, or Minerva, a disability consultant for the Detectives’ Endowment Association. They would then refer applicants to Lavallee and Hale, who is alleged to be Lavallee’s right hand man.
Hale, along with Esposito, are also accused of coaching applicants to falsely describe symptoms of depression and anxiety when interviewed by doctors and government workers. Specifically, they instructed applicants on how to fail memory tests with plausibility, how to dress, and on their demeanor.
The scheme began to unravel in 2008, when someone questioned how a retired police officer could be mentally fit to hold a pistol license and be mentally incapacitated enough to qualify for disability benefits, officials said.
Prosecutors said those charged collected an average of $30,000 to $50,000 a year — some collected close to $500,000 because their payments began back in 1988.
After claimants received their disability payments, they paid kickbacks to Esposito or Minerva, who then transferred money to Lavallee and Hale, prosecutors said.
The district attorney’s indictment names 16 individuals from Nassau County; 14 from Suffolk; 17 from Queens; six from Brooklyn; eight from Staten Island; two from Westchester; and others from New Jersey, Florida, Delaware, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arizona, New Hampshire, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Colorado.
Saturday, 08 March 2014 00:00
With kids today obsessed with all the latest electronic gaming gadgets — the Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo 3DS, and the like — you’d think that the comparatively antiquated concept of pushing a piece of plastic along a sheet of cardboard would be eschewed by your average teenager; however, judging by the crowd of kids at the Massapequa Public Library’s Board Game Café, this actually may not be the case.
Young Adult Services librarian Peter Cirona, who created the Board Game Café at the library’s Central Avenue branch (in addition to a whole host of other young adult programs), said that it’s a great way for kids to socialize and play some classic board games in a fun and friendly environment.
Friday, 07 March 2014 00:00
On Feb. 27, parents in the Levittown, East Meadow, Massapequa and Farmingdale school districts came together for an informal pannel discussion on the New York State Education Department and the implementation of the state Common Core Learning Standards. Panelists included New York State Assemblyman Thomas McKevitt, Jeanette Deutermann of the Long Island Opt Out Facebook page, and former public school teacher David Greene, who came to the Farmingdale Public Library to talk with local parents about key concerns and questions with the curriculum.
Outspoken parent and founder of the Long Island Opt Out movement, Deutermann, delved into some of the factors behind what led to the state’s adoption of the Common Core, and how the state education department cites High School graduation rates as its reasoning behind the curriculum.
Thursday, 06 March 2014 09:47
One of Major League Soccer’s top front office executives has many fond memories of growing up in the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL). Bill Manning, the President of Western Conference champion Real Salt Lake and the club’s field, Rio Tinto Stadium, played for the LIJSL Select Team from 1979 to ‘83 as well as the Massapequa Soccer Club from 1972 to ‘83.
Manning’s Massapequa teams had virtually the same players from Under-10 to Under-19, but kept changing their name depending on who their coach was. He played for the Massapequa Flying Dutchmen (coached by Kurt Knoblauch), the Massapequa Bugs (Dick Roche), the Massapequa Cosmos (Jerry Lyons) and the Massapequa Bulls (coached by his father, also named Bill Manning). The Bulls might have lost in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) State Open Cup finals to B/W Gottschee in overtime in 1983, but his teams won the LIJSL division championship in 1974, ‘76 and ‘79 plus the Long Island Cup in 1980 and ‘83.
Thursday, 27 February 2014 10:58
If the games were played on paper, Massapequa would’ve had no shot. The Chiefs faced a tall order last week playing Elmont, which boasted a 12-3 record and four premier scorers. They gave a tremendous effort, but ultimately had their season cut short, 69-62, despite Alex Cosenza leading the scoring with 29 points.
“I can’t ask for anything else from these guys,” said Head Coach Matt Voigt. “I am so proud of them. I applaud their efforts,”