Attorney General James Announces Felony Guilty Plea of Long Island Man for Fraudulently Obtaining Disability Benefits
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced the guilty plea of Anthony Ragusa, 52, formerly 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 WhiteStar Limousine — where he continued to earn income — and an avid weightlifter, as shown in numerous social media photos and videos of him lifting heavy weights on the internet.
“Disability benefits are a vital necessity for the New Yorkers who rely on those resources to help them live their lives,” said Attorney General James. “Anthony Ragusa swindled taxpayers by claiming the benefits for himself, but was caught in his fraudulent scheme when his wife posted bodybuilding photos of him online. His illegal and shameful actions are an insult to those who actually live with disabilities, and I will always take action to bring fraudsters like Ragusa to justice on behalf of the people.”
“For several years, Mr. Ragusa feigned his disability to fraudulently obtain over $200,000 in Social Security benefits, while managing his limousine business and a bodybuilding campaign. His admission holds him accountable for his deception and theft,” said Inspector General for the Social Security Administration Gail S. Ennis. “This guilty plea is a product of the collaborative efforts of our Cooperative Disability Investigations Program, in which we work jointly with state, local, and law enforcement agencies to combat fraud in our disability programs. I thank each agency for their investigative efforts and the Office of the Attorney General for prosecuting this case.”
Ragusa pled guilty today before State Supreme Court Judge Anthony Senft Jr. in Suffolk County Court to one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, in violation of Penal Law §155.40. The defendant will be paying $200,000 in restitution to SSA and will be on probation for five years. If the defendant fails to complete his restitution on the sentencing date, he will face one to three years of incarceration.
According to OAG’s filings and statements made by prosecutors, Ragusa applied for disability benefits in 2013. On his application, 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.
Extensive video and photographic evidence from Ragusa’s wife’s Instagram account showed that, beginning in 2017, Ragusa began a physical transformation into a bodybuilder. On the Instagram account, Ragusa could be seen lifting heavy weights and training for bodybuilding competitions, often at Bev Francis gym, known as “The Mecca” for bodybuilders. Additionally, OAG investigators reviewed documents from the state Department of Transportation and minutes from a town hearing in 2012 to show that, at the time of his fall, Ragusa was the president and owner of the WhiteStar Limousine company in New Hyde Park, NY.
From January 2015 to 2020, in hearings and written reports to determine his disability eligibility, Ragusa maintained his eligibility despite continuing to run a business and lift weights.
The OAG wishes to thank OTDA and SSA for their assistance in this matter. The OAG also wishes to thank Special Agent in Charge of SSA OIG New York Field Division Sharon MacDermott and Special Agent Gilberto Camilo for leading the investigation.
The case was investigated for OAG by Investigator William Fitzgerald, under the direction of Detective Supervisor Mike Leahy of the Major Investigations Unit. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folkes. Deputy Chief Auditor Sandy Bizzaro, under the direction of Chief Auditor Kristen Fabbri, provided 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 led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Jose Maldonado and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.