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Long Island Rail Road workers who lied about disabilities to collect big pensions with taxpayer money may be getting a "get out of jail free" card: the feds are offering an amnesty deal to hundreds of LIRR retirees believed to have taken part in a massive disability scam. Jonathan Dienst reports.
Feds arrested another retired employee of the Long Island Rail Road on fraud charges on Friday, bringing the tally of those busted in an ongoing disability pension probe to 22, law enforcement officials said.
Donald Alevas, age 53, was arrested by the FBI at his home in Patchogue early Friday, officials said. Alevas retired from the LIRR in 2008.
Since October 2011,22 people, including two doctors, have been arrested in the probe. They are accused of participating in a scheme in which LIRR workers allegedly claimed to be disabled upon early retirement so they could receive disability benefits from the federal Railroad Retirement Board in addition to their LIRR pension.
Friday marks the end of a voluntary disclosure and disposition program, announced by prosecutors in May, in which the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan agreed it would not criminally prosecute or file any civil action against any LIRR retirees who admit that they made false and misleading statements to obtain disability benefits and give up their right to continue receiving the disability benefits. Under this program, the retiree would not be required to pay back the amount of the disability payments already received. It is unclear whether anyone voluntarily has come forward.
According to prosecutors, a unique LIRR contract allows employees to retire at age 50 with a smaller pension than the full retirement pension for which they would be eligible at age 65. An LIRR employee who retires and claims disability can receive a disability payment from the federal RRB in addition to their LIRR pension, regardless of age.
According to prosecutors, more than 1,500 LIRR retirees who took early retirement are also receiving the special federal disability benefits.
Alevas will appear in federal court in Manhattan later today.
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