FBI charges 10 more in massive LIRR pension fraud

0fdd73fbe307a18d710372929eaae33a

They claimed they were too injured to work on the railroad, and instead spent their free time playing golf and tennis.

Even more Long Island Railroad workers were charged today in connection with the potentially massive pension fraud scheme that is draining millions from the commuter railroad — and taxpayers’ wallets.

Ten former LIRR workers were arrested, all who lied about being disabled so they could receive disability benefits, said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. The U.S. Attorney’s office led the investigation, joined by the FBI. The FBI started investigating after The New York Times wrote in 2008 about the suspiciously high rate of disability pensions for LIRR retirees.

All 10 people — Brian Delgiorno, Philip Pulsonetti, Gregory Bianchini Franklin Plaia, Michael Stavola, Michael Dasaro, Karl Brittell, Kevin Nugent, Gary Supper, and Thomas Delalla — are LIRR retirees. Six of the men were arrested this morning on Long Island, and one was arrested in Florida today.

These new ten men join 11 people who were arrested last October in connection with the scheme, bringing the total number of people charged to 21.

The retirees all claimed they had been injured while working on the job, and got to collect an early disability, some receiving more than $100,000 a year. But they were then spotted later working out at the gym, and playing golf and tennis. One of the retirees was even bike a 400-mile race after he claimed he was in too much pain to work.

“The LIRR is a commuter railroad, not a gravy train,” said Bahara today.

Two doctors were also charged, as prosecutors say they knowingly falsely diagnosed the LIRR workers as disabled. Long Island orthopedist Peter Ajemian is accused of helping more than 700 LIRR workers get disability benefits. His office manager was also arrested. Another Long Island orthopedist, Peter Lesniewski, is accused of helping more than 200 LIRR employees receive benefits. LIRR employees were allowed to choose their own doctors for diagnoses, and even joked the system was so easy to trick they dubbed it “disability by appointment.”

LIRR officials say the more than 20 people are inflating the railroad’s future pension costs by an estimated $1 billion.

Retire early like a king at the LIRR

The LIRR is the only commuter railroad in the United States that allows railroad employees to retire at the relatively young age of 50, if they have been working there for at least 20 years. But still some workers try to take advantage of the generous system: A study by the General Accounting Office last year showed that LIRR workers received disability pensions at a rate 12 times higher than workers at any other railroad. Other studies showed that for years, more than 90 percent of LIRR workers who requested a disability received one. Between 2004 and 2008, nearly 870 LIRR workers between ages 50 and 55 were granted a disability pension.

Asking those guilty to ‘fess up

Authorities say these 21 people arrested are only the tip of the iceberg in the scheme, and suspect there are hundreds of other workers who are similarly ripping off the LIRR.

The widening of the fraud caused officials to try and take action. Bharara and LIRR president Helena Williams announced today they are asking former LIRR workers who pulled the same stunt to voluntarily come forward. In return, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will agree not to criminally prosecute or file a civil suit against them.

And FBI assistant director Janice  Fedarcyk gave this ominous warning: “This is not an idle threat. If you are culpable in this fraud, the voluntary disclosure program is certainly a better choice than crossing your fingers and hoping we don’t find you.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Hurricane Odile batters Mexico's Baja resorts, sparks looting

Hurricane Odile injured dozens of people, forced the evacuation of thousands and smashed shops open to looters in the popular tourist area of Baja, Mexico.

National

Apple iPhone 6 pre-orders hit record 4 million…

By Lehar Maan(Reuters) - Apple Inc said many customers will need to wait until next month for their new iPhones after a record 4 million…

National

LAPD investigates complaint from detained 'Django' actress

The LAPD is investigating after "Django Unchained" actress Daniele Watts accused police of violating her rights when they detained her.

Local

Number of New York City smokers increase, topping…

For the first time since 2007, there are  more than one million smokers in New York City, according to the New York City Department of…

Movies

Newsflash: Corey Stoll is still not a man

In director Shaun Levy's "This Is Where I Leave You," Corey Stoll stars as the oldest of four adult children (the others are played by…

Movies

If you don't like Simon Pegg's new film,…

Simon Pegg goes all out in "Hector and the Search for Happiness" as the titular psychiatrist stymied by modern life who embarks on a globetrotting…

Arts

Art in Chelsea: Don't miss these 3 galleries

We selected three sure bets for seeing cool art in the galleries of Chelsea.

Music

Robin Thicke blurs lines further with new 'Blurred…

"The reality is," said Robin Thicke about "Blurred Lines" in a court deposition, "Pharrell had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song."

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

NFL

3 things we learned in Jets loss to…

The wheels came off for the Jets, who gave up 21 unanswered points after a brilliant first 20 minutes in a 31-24 loss at the Packers.

NFL

Victor Cruz catches case of the drops in…

The Giants dropped a tough, 25-14, decision to the undermanned Cardinals Sunday in their home opener. And drop was the operative word of the day,…

Travel

World's most hipster cities: Top 5

Travel blogger Adam Groffman tells us his picks for the Top 5 most hipster cities in the world.

Education

The top 5 regrets recent high school grads…

College application season can seem like a blur for many students - as test prep, campus visits and filling out a seemingly endless stream of…

Parenting

Tech execs tend to limit their kids' screen…

You probably got your iPad before Bill Gates's kids did.

Wellbeing

Wellbeing: Daybreaker returns, Ray Rice jersey trade, Sweet…

  Now that Ray Rice is no longer with the Baltimore Ravens — or any other NFL team — after video footage surfaced showing him…