September 30, 2014

Federal charges target LIRR disability claims

A former president of a UTU local, a former Railroad Retirement Board employee, two physicians and six workers retired from Long Island Rail Road have been charged by the federal government with criminal fraud involving allegedly false Long Island Rail Road employee occupational disability claims filed with and paid by the Railroad Retirement Board.

Among those charged is Joseph Rutigliano, a former president of UTU Local 645, who retired in 1999. Rutigliano’s attorney told Long Island Newsday, “I consider the complaint a masterpiece of creative writing.”

The U.S. attorney in charge of the case said his office would pursue civil cases to recover occupational disability payments from hundreds of Long Island Rail Road retirees who claimed an occupational disability based on allegedly false claims, and that additional criminal charges are likely.

According to the criminal complaint, hundreds of Long Island Rail Road retirees falsely filed occupational disability claims that were approved by the Railroad Retirement Board.

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

The physicians charged in the criminal complaint – and a third physician who is now deceased – are alleged to have prepared false medical assessments and illness narratives. The criminal complaint alleges that during a 12-year period ending in 2008, the physicians recommended almost 1,100 Long Island Railroad employees for occupational disability, and were paid as much as $1,200 for each assessment and narrative they prepared, plus they collected fees for what was termed “unnecessary medical treatments.”

The charges are the result of a federal probe following a series of investigative articles published in 2008 by The New York Times.