October 31, 2014

Former N.J. shortline execs charged in fraud

MORRISTOWN, N.J. — The former chief operating officer of Morristown & Erie Railway – a shortline on which the UTU represents train and engine workers – has been indicted for fraud by a grand jury in New Jersey. He is alleged to have improperly converted more than $800,000 in state DOT funds intended for rail rehabilitation, according to newjerseynewsroom.com.

Former COO Gordon Fuller was charged by the state Division of Criminal Justice along with the railroad’s former project manager, William Phelps. They are charged with conspiracy, submitting false contract payment claims for grant funds and tampering with public records.

State officials allege the between January 2003 and August 2004, Fuller directed the railroad to submit invoices “to create and reinforce the false impression that certain work had been completed on four railroad improvement projects” for which the shortline received state DOT grants. “In fact,” said state officials, “very little of the work had been performed.”

Fuller’s brush with the law is not his first. He reportedly was named in a November indictment charging him with conspiracy, insurance fraud, deception and falsifying or tampering with records in connection with a railroad insurance claim for a damaged switch following an accident involving a truck.

UTU General Chairperson Dan O’Connell (GO 770) said, “The M&E has been a good employer even in difficult times. If we had more shortlines like M&E, we’d all be better off.” O’Connell also is the UTU’s New Jersey state legislative director.

In addition to carrying freight, Morristown & Erie Railway operates passenger excursion service and frequently rents its trains for use in movies, television shows and commercials. Its equipment recently was filmed in the Golden Globe and Oscar nominated film, Far from Heaven, starring Dennis Quaid and Julienne Moore; Mona Lisa Smile, starring Julia Roberts; and The Station Agent.