Caught in the Act: Workers Collect Thousands in False Injury Claims

Ex-cop Vincent Lamantia allegedly lied about suffering from post-9/11 trauma.

ByABC News
April 18, 2014, 11:34 AM

April 18, 2014— -- UPDATE: Since this story first aired on April 18, 2014, Vincent Lamantia pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the second degree and criminal facilitation in the fourth degree. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, three years of probation and restitution of $148,876.40. He's already served his time.

Every year, countless people rake in thousands of dollars by faking an injury to collect on disability payments. Vincent Lamantia, 43, from Staten Island, N.Y., is allegedly one of those fraudsters.

In online videos, Lamantia appears to be very brazen, giving others advice on how to make easy money. He is one of many former New York City police officers and firefighters who were recently indicted for claiming fraudulent psychological ailments in order to collect social security benefits.

Lamantia allegedly lied about suffering from depression from post-9/11 trauma, and collected nearly $150,000 in disability payments. Despite saying he was too ill to work, he was working for an energy company and traveling to exotic countries, like Indonesia, according to prosecutors.

He is heard in one online video bragging about money coming in at his job saying, “They keep paying us. They keep downloading money every single week. We’re getting emails that said, 'Congratulations, you have money.'"

ABC News approached Vincent Lamantia for comment, but he declined to speak.

Many of the indicted former officers left a trail of evidence posted online, including Glen Lieberman, a retired police officer who claimed mental illness, but was found smiling on a jet ski in a photo posted on Facebook. Lieberman's lawyer told ABC News the photo was taken before he became sick.

Luis Hurtado collected almost half a million dollars for a claimed back injury. But, at the time, he was an active owner and martial arts teacher at “VIP Karate” school in Florida and currently has his picture posted on their website. The defendants in this case all pleaded not guilty.

These former officers are among the many individuals who are accused of claiming a fraudulent injury. Experts estimate that false injury claims cost insurance companies billions of dollars a year, which trickles down to taxpayers and raises their premiums. Questionable claims are up 24 percent from last year.

Cathy Cashwell, from Oak Island, N.C., was another individual accused of wrongfully collecting worker’s compensation. In her 2004 claim, Cashwell said a shoulder injury while working as a postal worker prevented her from standing, running, reaching or grasping.

Yet, she was spotted on the show “The Price is Right,” running up to the podium, jumping in excitement and spinning the wheel. She also posted all her vacation photos online, and was seen zip-lining and hang-gliding on Facebook. She subsequently pleaded guilty to fraud.

Valerie Scroggins, a former New York City bus driver, claimed that a severe shoulder injury prevented her from getting behind the wheel. In 2006, detectives tracked her down in Europe playing drums at a concert with her band, ESG. She pleaded guilty on Sept. 19, 2008 to “attempted fraudulent practices."

Chicago-based private investigator Bob Kiehn makes it his job to catch impostors, with the help of his spy gear. “It’s those people that are raising the insurance premiums…that’s why I do this," Kiehn told ABC News.

Kiehn and his company can save insurance companies millions of dollars a year by detecting fraud.

He’s caught people on camera, such as Marwan Khouri, who reported severe back and neck injuries and yet was seen on video using a pick ax. Khouri's lawyer told ABC News the video does not show the extent of Khouri's injuries. But Khouri was denied all compensation after an insurance commission ruled that he had lied.

There was also a steel worker, who was collecting money for a shoulder injury, but was caught by Kiehn on video working with a power saw to cut through ice while ice fishing.

While Kiehn makes it harder for people to commit these frauds, there are many people who are willing to take that risk.

“The best way and only way of beating the system is completely staying in your house, not leaving for three to five years," Kiehn said.

"Because anything you do outside of that -- and we’re there -- we’re going to get it.”