11 Transit Workers Charged in $1 Billion Pension Scam

From The New York Post:

Former Long Island Rail Road workers who lied about being disabled rode a “train of lies” to golden retirements in an audacious, $1 billion pension scam, the feds said yesterday.

Eleven suspects were charged: six retired workers, two orthopedists and three so-called “facilitators” — a former union official, an ex-federal railroad administrator and a doctor’s-office manager.

More arrests are likely down the line, authorities said.

“Employees, in many cases after claiming to be too disabled to stand, sit, walk or climb steps, retired to lives of regular golf, tennis, biking and aerobics,” said Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.

“Benefit programs . . . were designed to be a safety net for the truly disabled, not a feeding trough for the totally dishonest.”

Officials blamed lax oversight at the federal Railroad Retirement Board, which administers the pensions, for allowing perfectly healthy LIRR employees to retire in their 50s with six-figure pensions by claiming they were in too much pain to work — even as they golfed, played tennis or started second careers, prosecutors said.

The scam was simple, the feds said, claiming:

* The “facilitators” would charge soon-to-be retiring LIRR workers $1,000 to $1,400 for introductions to one of three doctors.

* The doctors demanded $800 to $1,200 — plus follow-up visits for medically questionable “treatments” for which the workers’ health insurance paid — to make the determination that the scammers were unable to do their jobs.

* Then the facilitators would help the workers with a 15-page disability-claim application for the RRB, which would almost always approve it.

* Even the arrested doctors admitted to investigators that they were shocked that the RRB didn’t have its own doctors examine the pension applicants, the criminal complaint says.

* Virtually all of the 1,423 workers who put in for disability pensions between 2004 and 2008 were approved.

* By comparison, the LIRR’s sister line, Metro-North, had only 122 workers approved for disability pensions in that period.

“It is especially disheartening to think that railroad employees would tell a train of lies to pad their early retirements,” Bharara said, adding that the scam had been going on since the late ’90s.

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