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Bodybuilder collecting disability gets caught through Instagram posts, NY officials say

The Charlotte Observer logo The Charlotte Observer 6/22/2022 Alison Cutler, The Charlotte Observer

After suffering a fall at work in 2013, Anthony Ragusa’s life changed drastically, he reported on his application for disability benefits, state prosecutors in New York said. It hurt to bend over to tie his shoes, he had difficulty walking for more than 15 minutes and sitting for more than 30. Working, he wrote, was out of the question.

But Ragusa’s social media footprint told a different story.

On Instagram, he was an “avid weightlifter,” prosecutors said.

And his wife’s social media posts of the now-52-year-old lifting and training in gyms were used in court to charge him with fraudulently collecting more than $200,000 in disability benefits from 2015 to 2020, according to a news release from the New York Attorney General’s Office.

Ragusa pleaded guilty on June 14 before State Supreme Court Judge Anthony Senft Jr. in Suffolk County Court, according to the release.

“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,” Attorney General Letitia James said in the release.

McClatchy News was unable to reach Ragusa’s attorney.

Ragusa, who is formerly from Huntington, pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree grand larceny, which is a class C felony, according to the release. He will pay $200,000 in restitution to the Social Security Administration and will be on probation for five years, the release said.

In 2013, Ragusa applied for disability benefits reportedly from a fall on the job as an electrician, according to the news release. The injury prevented him from working in any capacity, officials say Ragusa reported.

During the time he was disabled, Ragusa collected income as the president and owner of a limousine service, WhiteStar Limousine, and began his bodybuilding journey, officials said.

“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,” the release said. “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.”

James first announced Ragusa’s arrest on May 20, 2021.

Huntington is about 38 miles northeast of New York City.

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