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Scores Of Retired NYC Officers, Firefighters Charged In Fraud Case

Eighty former New York City police officers and firefighters were charged on Tuesday in connection to a fraudulent scheme that prosecutors allege led to undeserved Social Security payments.

Authorities said the public servants falsely claimed that their actions in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, left them unable to work because of psychiatric conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

The New York Times reports that the scheme — in which the officers and firefighters were coached on how to appear disabled — cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent payments.

The Times adds that investigators found many of the police officers and firefighters claiming disability didn't appear disabled in pictures posted on their social media accounts:

"The bail letter includes photographs culled from the Internet that 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 the Feast of San Gennaro on Mulberry Street in Manhattan.

"Indeed, 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."

ABC News reports the charges cap a two-year investigation by federal investigators, the NYPD and the city's Department of Investigation.

This "was the second 9/11 scam to be revealed this week," ABC reports. "On Monday, two New Jersey men pleaded guilty to raising and keeping $50,000 for a Sept. 11 charity that was supposed to help families who lost loved ones in the catastrophe."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.