Seventy-two retired New York City police officers were among 106 people charged in one of the largest Social Security disability frauds ever. The New York Times called it a sprawling decades-long scheme in which false mental disability claims by as many as 1,000 people cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Many of those charged collected 30,000 to $50,000 a year based on fabricated claims that they were completely incapacitated by serious psychiatric disorders. Many said their actions in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were responsible for their psychiatric conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression.
Their Facebook pages and other websites tell a starkly different story. Photos culled from the Internet show one riding a jet ski and others working at jobs ranging from helicopter pilot to martial arts instructor. One is shown fishing off the coast of Costa Rica and another sitting astride a motorcycle, while another appeared in a television news story selling cannoli at a festival. Prosecutors charge that they were coached by the scheme's organizers to appear disheveled and disoriented during interviews, in which doctors initially evaluated their disability applications before finding them to be mentally disabled and incapable of any work whatsoever. “The brazenness is shocking,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.