Ten Long Island Railroad veterans face federal fraud charges stemming from the full blown scandal that has seen railroad workers collect disability pensions despite what is often a lack of disability.
Prosecutors called it a “massive fraud scheme,” according to the NY Times–one that could have led to a billion dollars’ worth of disability pension payouts. From 2004 through 2008, only 7 percent of employees at the Metro-North Railroad who stopped working and received disability payments were 50 to 55; at the Long Island Rail Road, the figure was 61 percent, prosecutors said.
So widespread was the fraud that it appears it was simply part of the LIRR culture. Retire, get pension, get disability benefits. Nearly every employee who applied received disability, and some even served as disability fixers–coaching their clients on qualifying for disability for a fee.
Nine defendants were at home on Long Island, and one was in Florida. A A study by the General Accounting Office in 2010 showed that LIRR workers received disability pensions at a rate 12 times higher than workers at any other railroad, reports NBC New York.
Last October, 11 people were charged by federal prosecutors with participating in the scheme to defraud the Railroad Retirement Board.
The U.S. attorney’s office said it will not criminally charge those who come forward and give back ill-gotten disability pay.
Give it up to U.S. attorney Preet Bharara for a sweet little sound bite.
“The L.I.R.R. is a commuter railroad, not a gravy train,” said Preet.
It is worth mentioning, so I will, that every time I mention the LIRR disability scandal, lots of apologists come out in favor of the accused, saying everyone who comes down on the LIRR vets is jealous that they don’t get similar benefits.