DOJ accuses another in disability benefits scheme

Michael P. Tremoglie Jul. 9, 2012, 10:46am

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - The Department of Justice announced Friday that another person has been accused in a scheme in which Long Island Railroad workers allegedly claimed to be disabled upon early retirement so they could receive more disability benefits.

Donald Alevas, the former LIRR director of shop equipment, engineering and environmental compliance, was arrested for his alleged participation in the fraud. He is the 22nd person to be charged.

According to the DOJ, others involved are two doctors and an office manager for one of the doctors who were allegedly involved in falsely diagnosing retiring LIRR workers as disabled, two "facilitators" who allegedly served as liaisons between retiring workers and the participating doctors, and 18 LIRR retirees, one of whom was also charged as a facilitator.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: "As today's arrest makes abundantly clear, our investigation of the massive fraud that was allegedly perpetrated on the LIRR and that cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in potentially fraudulent benefits is very much ongoing. It should also make clear that we will prosecute those against whom we believe we have the evidence to prove that they received benefits to which they were not entitled - Donald Alevas makes that number 22, and he will not be the last. We strongly encourage any LIRR retiree who lied to get disability benefits to come forward and participate in the Voluntary Disclosure program while they still have the chance."

According to the DOJ communique, the LIRR contract retirement set the age of 50 if they have been employed by the LIRR for at least 20 years. It is the only commuter railroad in the United States that offers a retirement pension at that age. The pension is a fraction of the annual earned salary.

But if the employee claims a disability prior to retirement then the employee collects both a disability and retirement pension which is about the same as the full salary the employee earned. Hundreds of employees allegedly did this. According the DOJ, 61 percent of LIRR employees who went out on disability from 2004 through 2008 were between the ages of 50 and 55, and three doctors accounted for 86 percent of the disability claims.

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