A man who owned a limousine rental company based in New Hyde Park was arrested last week for allegedly collecting more than $200,000 in fraudulent disability claims, according to state Attorney General Letitia James.
Anthony Ragusa, 50, from Huntington, allegedly filed false disability reports with the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance from 2013 to 2020, citing a 2013 injury that impeded his abilities to perform daily activities, according to a news release from James’ office. The office said Ragusa was the president and owner of White Star Limousine company in New Hyde Park at the time of his injury.
The news release said Ragusa continued to work and train to be an “avid weightlifter” while collecting disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. James’ office claimed various social media posts and videos featured Ragusa training to become a bodybuilder.
“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,” James said. “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.”
Efforts to reach Ragusa or a representative on the matter were unavailing.
On the application Ragusa filed, according to the news release, he claimed his injury came as a result of a fall working as an electrician. The injuries sustained after the fall, Ragusa said in the reports, were so severe that he had trouble walking for more than 15 minutes and sitting for 30 minutes at a time. He also claimed the injuries prevented him from working in any capacity, according to the news release.
From January 2015 to 2020, officials said, Ragusa maintained eligibility to receive continuous disability funds despite hearings and written testimonies. Officials said there is “extensive” video and photographic evidence that showed Ragusa lifting weights in his quest to become a bodybuilder since 2017, including various posts from his wife’s Instagram account. She is a professional bodybuilder.
Ragusa was arraigned on Thursday in Suffolk County on one count of second-degree grand larceny and one count of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree.
“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,” John F. Grasso, the Social Security Administration’s New York Field Division special agent-in-charge, said. “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.”
“Disability benefits exist to help those who need a safety net when their bodies cannot fulfill day-to-day obligations,” James said. “My office will not hesitate to pursue those who defraud our system and saddle our state with debt.”