New York residents convicted of felonies can face severe consequences including loss of employment, financial hardship and prison time. But the most damning consequence may be the damage to one’s reputation. A New York resident’s legacy-personal or professional-can be tarnished by mere accusations. Take, for example, the recent case of almost two dozen former firefighters and police officers who were arrested for alleged disability fraud.

Twenty-one of 28 people arrested recently for alleged Social Security disability fraud were ex-police officers and firefighters. They face allegations of making bogus claims and receiving Social Security Disability Insurance payments of between $20,000 and $50,000 per year. According to prosecutors, the defendants faked psychological conditions such as depression in order to get the SSDI payments. A majority were allegedly also receiving their regular pensions at the same time. Prosecutors claim that many of the accused lived active lifestyles that contradicted the conditions they declared in their disability applications.

A month prior to these arrests, 106 people were charged with grand larceny, including eight former firefighters and 72 ex-NYPD officers. The 28 arrested recently were charged with criminal facilitation and grand larceny. Four so-called “ringleaders” allegedly coached defendants on how to feign psychological trauma and qualify for disability. These four were charged with additional counts of conspiracy and larceny.

Whether someone is suffering from depression or other psychological disorders is a matter for medical experts. Those facing allegations of disability fraud need to present the testimony of their own experts to show there is at least reasonable doubt as to whether they knowingly made a misrepresentation in their applications.

Source: CBS Local, “Ex-NYPD Officers, Firefighters part Of New Arrests In Disability Fraud Investigation,” Feb. 25, 2014