CB 9’s Esposito indicted in Social Security fraud

CB 9’s Esposito indicted in Social Security fraud
Photo by Bianca Fortis
By Sarina Trangle

Community Board 9 member Saverio “Sam” Esposito has been indicted in connection with a massive Social Security fraud scheme the Manhattan district attorney has accused his father of orchestrating.

Prosecutors accused Esposito, a retired police officer and Ozone Park resident, of participating in a 134-person scheme allegedly spearheaded by his father, Joseph Esposito, and three others, in which Fire Department and Police Department employees were coached on how to lie about their mental health in order to collect Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, the DA said.

The CB 9 member entered a not guilty plea in Manhattan State Supreme Court Monday night, according to the DA’s office.

He could not immediately be reached for comment.

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. said the ring bilked the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars during a nearly 25-year period by directing city employees to describe symptoms of depression, anxiety and related disorders and then claim to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder while filing for benefits, according to the criminal complaint.

Many participants noted that they rarely left their homes and had little interest in social activity on Social Security paperwork, but according to the criminal complaint, they were otherwise shown to live active lifestyles by flying a helicopter, playing blackjack in Las Vegas and performing martial arts moves set to music.

The DA alleged that the senior Esposito, a retired member of the NYPD, and his three partners took a cut from the retirees once they received benefits, which usually amounted to between $15,000 and $50,000 annually.

“These defendants are accused of gaming the system by lying about their lifestyle, including their ability to work, drive, handle money, shop and socialize in order to obtain benefits to which they were not entitled,” Vance said in a statement.

The indictments claim the younger Esposito applied for Social Security Disability benefits around January 2007.

CB 9 District Manager Mary Ann Carey declined comment. CB 9 Chairman James Coccovillo could not immediately be reached for comment.

Borough President Melinda Katz’s office declined to comment on an inquiry into whether the bylaws of the community board outline a process for handling such situations. Her staff also would not immediately disclose whether Esposito was appointed by a City Council member or a former borough president.

CB 9 discussed dismissing Esposito this winter. The board voted to retain the longtime board member after he was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks to three board members.

The trio had requested Esposito’s removal because they said he sent an e-mail criticizing them for complaining that food served at a meeting was “not kosher enough.”

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.