Huntington Resident Fraudulently Collected Disability Payments While Owning a Business and Training for Bodybuilding Competitions
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced the arrest of Anthony Ragusa, 50, of Huntington, NY, for fraudulently collecting more than $200,000 in disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged that, from 2013 to 2020, Ragusa falsely represented to the New York state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) that he was unable to work and perform daily activities as a result of injuries caused by a 2013 fall. While collecting disability benefits, and purportedly disabled, Ragusa was still the president and owner of White Star Limousine — where he continued to earn income — and an avid weightlifter, as displayed in numerous social media photos and videos showing him lifting heavy weights on the internet.
“Disability benefits exist to help those who need a safety net when their bodies cannot fulfill day-to-day obligations,” said Attorney General James. “While cheating the state out of thousands of dollars, Anthony Ragusa was simultaneously running a business and posing for pictures of his bodybuilding on the internet. Fraudulently collecting these benefits was not only a shameful slap in the face to those who actually live with disabilities, but a vast waste of taxpayer dollars. My office will not hesitate to pursue those who defraud our system and saddle our state with debt.”
“This arrest exemplifies the results we can deliver to taxpayers through our Cooperative Disability Investigations Program, which serves to ensure that only those who are eligible for Social Security disability benefits are able to receive them,” said Special Agent-in-Charge John F. Grasso, SSA Office of the Inspector General, New York Field Division. “I want to thank the Office of the Attorney General, SSA, and OTDA for their partnership in this vital endeavor, and the New York State Police for their assistance today.”
According to the OAG’s filings and statements made by prosecutors, Ragusa applied for disability benefits in 2013. On the application for benefits, Ragusa represented that his injuries from a fall as an electrician were so severe that he had difficulty bending over to put on shoes, walking for more than 15 minutes, and sitting for more than 30 minutes. Ragusa also stated that the pain from his injuries prevented him from working in any capacity.
Investigators from the OAG reviewed documents from the state Department of Transportation and minutes from a town hearing from 2012 show that, at the time of his fall, Ragusa was the president and owner of the White Star Limousine company in New Hyde Park, NY. Additionally, extensive video and photographic evidence from Ragusa’s wife’s Instagram account show that, beginning in 2017, Ragusa began a physical transformation into a bodybuilder.
Additionally, from January 2015 to 2020, in hearings and written reports to determine his eligibility, Ragusa maintained his eligibility despite continuing to run a business and lift weights.
Ragusa was arraigned today before County Court Judge Stephen Ukeiley in Suffolk County to one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class “C” felony, in violation of Penal Law §155.40, and one count of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class “E” felony, in violation of Penal Law §175.35.The charges are merely accusations and Ragusa is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
The OAG wishes to thank the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance and the Social Security Administration for their assistance in this matter and the New York State Police for their arrest of the defendant. The OAG also thanks the Social Security Administration Inspector General’s Office for leading the investigation, under the supervision of Special Agent-in-Charge John F. Grasso.
The case was investigated for the OAG by Investigator William Fitzgerald, under the direction of Detective Supervisor Mike Leahy, Executive Officer Mario Rivera, and Chief Antoine Karam of the Major Investigations Unit. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes. Deputy Chief Auditor Sandy Bizzaro, under the direction of Chief Auditor Kristen Fabbri, provided the forensic analysis during this investigation.
Assistant Attorney General Russell Satin is handling the prosecution in this matter, under the supervision of Public Integrity Bureau Chief Gerard Murphy, with assistance by Legal Support Analyst Grace Koh. Both the Investigations Bureau and the Public Integrity Bureau are part of the Division for Criminal Justice. The Division for Criminal Justice is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General Jose Maldonado and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.