More than three years after indicting 137 alleged scammers who falsely claimed 9/11-related PTSD, Manhattan’s District Attorney is still seeking to reclaim $22 million in fraudulent payments. The New York Post reported that several of the accused fraudsters incriminated themselves with audacious social media posts that contradicted their claims of disability. These included:
- Glen Lieberman — The 19-year veteran of the NYPD, including service with the Brooklyn South Gangs Unit, “falsely claimed to have assisted at Ground Zero on 9-11, was ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution and complete 250 hours of community service after pleading guilty to third-degree grand larceny.” Lieberman had claimed he was so traumatized by 9/11 that he couldn’t leave his home, but a Facebook photo showed him riding a Sea-Doo in Florida.
- Richard Cosentino — Former NYPD officer Richard Cosentino accepted more than $200,000 in disability payments, but was able enough to land an enormous marlin during a fishing trip to Costa Rica, and proudly posed with his trophy for the camera. According to the Post, in 2015, Cosentino “pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny in exchange for a conditional discharge and an order to pay $207,000 in restitution.”
- Louis Hurtado — The ex-NYPD cop’s case is yet to be heard, but Hurtado apparently worked as a martial arts instructor, advertising his services online, despite “illegally pocketing $470,000 over 26 years — the most money over the longest period of anyone charged.”
On the flip side, the Post reports “four defendants who won dismissal of the charges against them filed $40 million worth of ’malicious prosecution’ suits against [Manhattan DA] Vance earlier this year in Manhattan federal court.” Those lawsuits aside, the DA’s work in this case is vitally important for all 9/11 responders and survivors for two very good reasons.
First, the scammers’ unjust enrichment unjustly deprives legitimate claimants of funds they deserve. But perhaps more importantly, this level of fraud creates a stigma impugning claimants who cite post-traumatic stress disorder as a disabling condition. Such a stigma can prevent PTSD sufferers from getting the benefits and treatment they deserve, thus dooming them to a life with often unbearable symptoms.
As attorneys for 9/11 responders and survivors, we at Barasch & McGarry applaud the DA’s efforts to root out fraud in the disability system. However, we’re also sensitive to the fact that too zealous and sweeping a prosecution can snare innocent claimants, unjustly stigmatizing them and others who are considering a PTSD claim. We hope this sad episode reaches a just conclusion, which may include a fair settlement for wrongly accused defendants.
If you are suffering from PTSD following the attacks of 9/11, contact an experienced Zadroga Act benefits attorney at Barasch & McGarry. We have represented 9/11 survivors from the outset. Call us at [ln::phone] or contact our office online.