Published on July 26th, 2013 | by Daniel Perlman0
Long Island Rail Road director pleads guilty in disabilities scam
A former Long Island Rail Road director said yesterday she was recruited to jump aboard the agency’s “gravy train” scam by an insider who “exaggerated” the director’s paperwork with fake disabilities for a $1,000 cash fee so she could get a cushy early retirement.
Regina Walsh, a retired LIRR director of employee operations, took the stand in Manhattan federal court as the prosecution’s first key witness in its case against Marie Baran, a former employee of the Railroad Retirement Board who allegedly played a key role in the massive $1 billion disability scheme.
Walsh, 65, who’s among the 25 people to plead guilty in the case and agree to cooperate with the feds in a bid for leniency, said she “never discussed” having any physical ailments with Baran, 64.
But Walsh, of New Hyde Park, said she kept mum while watching Baran – during a private January 2007 meeting – draft paperwork falsely claiming the former director suffered from leg pain after standing more than five minutes, and severe neck, shoulder and hand pain caused by sitting at a desk and using a computer.
Baran even claimed in the paperwork that Walsh had “difficulty” dressing herself and doing indoor chores – and that outdoor chores were all but impossible for her to handle.
“She knew the right words for me to get a disability,” Walsh said. “It was exaggerated.”
In fact, Walsh later told the jury that she took “spin classes” and did other cardio workouts – as well as baby-sitting three times a week – in the months following her September 2006 retirement leading to her meeting with Baran.
She was also caught by the feds on video surveillance shoveling snow for roughly an hour.
Walsh testified that she once asked Baran if it would be less risky to go on “sick leave” rather than claim “occupational disability” and retire after 30 years. Baran shot down the idea, Walsh said.
“It would be too risky,” she recalled Baran telling her.
Baran, former LIRR union president Joseph Rutigliano and Dr. Peter Lesniewski, who’s charged with certifying fake disabilities for hundreds of LIRR workers, are the first to stand trial in the massive scheme.
Source: nypost.com “Long Island Rail Road director pleads guilty in disabilities scam,” July 26, 2013.