11 out on bail in LIRR pension fraud case

Barry Kluger (r.), the MTA inspector general, listens as Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, announces charges of disability fraud against 11 defendants of the LIRR. AP Photo/
TimesLedger Newspapers

Eleven people have been released on bail in what federal prosecutors contend was a monumental fraud scheme by Long Island Rail Road employees falsely claiming disabilities in order to augment their pensions.

“Benefit programs like that of the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board disability program were designed to be a safety net for the truly disabled, not a feeding trough for the truly dishonest,” said Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

“And in these tough economic times — with stretched budgets, rising costs, frozen wages unemployed people — it is especially disheartening to think that railroad employers would tell a train of lies to pad their early retirements and that a handful of doctors would traffic on the credibility of their profession to promote a culture of fraud.”

The federal complaint told of investigators conducting surveillance on some of the accused while they were taking part in strenuous physical activities that would have been impossible had they been suffering the disabilities they claimed.

Nearly all the accused were taken into custody early last Thursday.

The 74-page federal complaint said the scheme could cost the federal Railroad Retirement Board more than $1 billion in benefits “if disbursed in full.”

Prosecutors said more arrests were possible.

“If you have this kind of first-hand information, we would like to hear from you,” said Diego Rodriguez of the FBI. “For those who choose not to contract us, there is a good chance we will be contacting you.”

The defendants included those accused of seeking and getting fraudulent disability retirement status; so-called “facilitators,” who assisted disability candidates in filling out disability claim materials; and two doctors, who were accused of preparing fraudulent reports.

Prosecutors said one of the defendants, Gregory Noone, of East Islip, L.I., who draws a $105,000 pension, claimed severe pain in bending, crouching or gripping, although he often played tennis. And Steven Gagliano, of North Babylon, L.I., took a 400-mile bicycle trip, although he claimed disabling back pain, the complaint said.

The defendants, who have been freed on bail and nearly all of whom have travel restrictions, are Dr. Peter Ajemian, 62, Syosset, L.I.; Dr. Peter Lesniewski, 60, Rockville Centre, L.I.; Maria Rusin, 55, of Farmingdale, L.I.; Marie Baran, 64, of East Meadow, L.I.; Joseph Rutigliano, 64, of Holtsville, L.I.; Gregory Noone, 62, of East Islip, L.I.; Regina Walsh, 63, of New Hyde Park, L.I.; Sharon Falloon, 56, of Merrick, L.I.; Gary Satin, 62, of Moorsville, N.C.; Steven Gagliano, 55, of North Babylon, L,I.; and Richard Ehrlinger, 64, of Bayshore, L.I.

The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board administers benefits, including those for disability, for the nation’s railroad workers and their families. An LIRR contract allows workers to retire as young as 50 provided they have been employed for at least 20 years. An LIRR employee who retires and claims disability may receive a disability payment on top of their LIRR pension, regardless of age.

Prosecutors said Ajemian, with assistance of his office manager, Rusin and Lesniewki, used their medical practices as “disability mills” by preparing fraudulent medical narratives. The federal complaint said Ajemian and Lesniewski received some $800 to $1,200, usually in cash for the fraudulent assessments and narratives.

Court officials said the defendants will appear before a U.S. court judge within 30 days for further disposition of their cases.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

Reader Feedback

A. Nesmachinov from Florida says:
I dont beleive that Maria Rusin, the office manager of Ajemian clinic, has nothing to do with the fraud, this woman needed to work to support her family, an emigrant from Uruguay, came to this country en the early 70's, work very hard, and because she worked in an office where the bosses are charged with fraud, doesn't mean that she had to know what the Doctors where doing, she went to work everyday to fullfill a position of a manager, she never question her boss, her job was a clerical job, also she is not educated in this field, she never imagined that working as a clerical manager in the office was going to involved in any wrong doing....c'mon are using her as a scape goat?....she is not guilty of any wrong doing, prove it first!!....
Nov. 11, 2011, 7:44 am
John from Long Island says:
So glad to see these individuals being charged. Massive waste going on for years, costing taxpayers millions while the LIRR turned a blind eye, cutting services and constantly raising ticket fares, instead of taking the necessary internal measures to regulate and prevent the fraud causing the real loss. I cant tell you how many LIRR employees i know personally who were aware of this fraudulent practice and still planned to benefit from it at some point. LIRR is a corrupt organization from the inside out.
Nov. 15, 2011, 9:57 am
Frank from Long Island says:
The public formulates opinions on garbage media reporting. Before writing these articles the media needs to do their homework. According to the law governing railroad retirement, an occupationally disabled employee CAN ACTUALLY STILL WORK but with restrictions on the dollar amount each year. There are always scammers but to accuse every employee of fraud is a damn crime in itself! So much misinformation reported! Go after real thieves like our many politicians uncovered for insider trading. Middle class people working hard are easy targets for politicians getting close to election time. You people elect vote these morons.
Nov. 23, 2011, 11:14 pm
Run91 from Close says:
Thankyou Frank, Notice the complainers that have to pay for the LIRR ticket every month and they don't know that it is Federally Funded,and the Guys pay into it for years, there was a woman on the Ny Post that explained it to another crybaby in one of the Blogs from more Morons
Dec. 8, 2011, 1:58 am
joe smith from bronx says:
I. Thought STEVE GAGLIARNO was a nice guy too, a family man,and is innocent until proven guilty but with all the evidence against him, I would say is a lazy piece of (fill in blank). In short, do not judge book by its cover.
Feb. 22, 2013, 11:52 am

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