Feds Offer 'Fess Up' Deal To Those Out There Who May Still Be Bilking System

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Ten more Long Island Rail Road retirees were busted Tuesday for disability pension fraud, and the U.S. Attorney is now telling others who might be scamming the system it’s time to make a deal — do it our way or you will pay.

The retirees are accused of faking injuries to qualify for extra disability pension pay. Tuesday arrests came following 11 last October, including doctors who allegedly helped retirees game the system and former LIRR workers who claimed crippling injuries, but were caught golfing, shoveling snow, and going on a 400-mile bike ride, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.

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Those charged in this latest round of arrests have been identified as LIRR retirees Brian Delgiorno, Philip Pulsonetti, Gregory Bianchini, Franklin Plaia, Michael Stavola, Michael Dasaro, Karl Brittell, Kevin Nugent, Gary Supper and Thomas Delalla.

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One retired cop, who is truly disabled, told Aiello he’s disgusted by the alleged fraud.

“If you have a problem, that’s one thing. If you don’t have a problem, you’re just padding everything. You shouldn’t get anything,” Frank Richards said.

“We’re paying the price and they’re going golfing?” New Yorker Elaine Richards said.

While announcing the new indictments, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The LIRR is a commuter railroad, not a gravy train for LIRR workers who planned padded retirements built on lies and greed.”

The LIRR released the following statement Tuesday:

“The LIRR condemns any fraudulent activity associated with federal disability pension benefits.  In August 2008 when the LIRR became aware of the high rate of LIRR retiree applications, the LIRR asked the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) Inspector General and the MTA Inspector General to investigate.  The LIRR has cooperated fully with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the New York State Attorney General’s Office, the MTA Inspector General’s Office and the Railroad Retirement Board Inspector General’s office in their investigations of fraudulent disability pension applications.  We support their efforts to root out fraud.

“The creation of the voluntary disclosure and disposition program by the U.S. Attorney’s Office offers an important opportunity for any LIRR retiree who engaged in fraudulent activity with regard to filing for a federal disability pension to come forward, accept responsibility, avoid prosecution and avoid the potential loss of LIRR company pension benefits. The LIRR urges those involved to carefully consider this offer. These federal pension benefits – administered by the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board – must be reserved for those who are truly disabled.

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“Federal disability benefits are funded by railroad employer and employee payroll taxes across the United States.  We hope the U.S. Attorney’s investigation will send a strong message to those who seek to defraud this important federal program.”

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Investigators estimate as many as 1,000 LIRR workers scammed the system to claim extra disability pension pay. Now, the U.S. Attorney will be sending letters to every retiree, offering them a chance to ‘fess up and avoid prosecution.

Those who do so by July 6 will lose all future disability pension payments, the U.S. Attorney said. Those who wait until August will also have to forfeit 50 percent of past payments.

CBS 2’s Aiello went to Penn Station on Tuesday to gauge commuter reactions.

“They’re trying to help people come forth, so it won’t cost them as much. The feds won’t be able to catch everyone, so they’re giving them a volunteer basis,” LIRR rider John Grable said.

The feds said those who don’t confess will face criminal prosecution or civil lawsuits.

The retirees arrested Tuesday each collected at least $10,000 a month in regular and disability pension payments, the U.S. Attorney said.

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