A former Huntington man has pleaded guilty to fraudulently collecting more than $200,000 in disability benefits, the state attorney general’s office said Tuesday.
Anthony Ragusa, 52, collected the benefits from the Social Security Administration, the office of State Attorney General Letitia James said. The office charged that from 2013 to 2020, Ragusa falsely represented to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance 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 supposedly disabled, Ragusa was 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,” James said. “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.”
Ragusa pleaed guilty 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. 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 in jail.
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. 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.
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.