3 more get probation in LIRR disability fraud
Three more retired Long Island Rail Road disability thieves who agreed to cooperate with the government in hopes of leniency were rewarded with sentences of probation Friday in sentencing hearings that have become almost routine.
Of 33 doctors, consultants and retirees charged and convicted in the case, 21 have now been sentenced and 13 of those -- including every defendant who agreed to provide information and testify against their ex-colleagues -- have avoided prison time with the support of prosecutors.
In Friday's cases, Manhattan U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero handed out identical sentences of 3 months' home confinement to former LIRR engineers Gary Supper, 59, of Glen Head, and Gregory Bianchini, 60, of Key Largo, Fla., and former human resources manager Sharon Falloon, 59, of Merrick.
All three were praised by the judge and prosecutors for their assistance -- Supper was a star witness at the trial of a doctor and two consultants last year -- and expressed regret for succumbing to an LIRR culture that encouraged early retirement supplemented by a disability annuity.
"I stand before you humiliated, remorseful and embarrassed," said Supper, the son and brother of railroad men. "I was not strong enough to resist participating."
In an indictment filed in 2011, the government charged that a few corrupt doctors and consultants conspired with hundreds of retirees to file phony disability claims with the federal Railroad Retirement Board in a scam that could have cost $1 billion if not stopped.
Falloon, prosecutors say, claimed "disabling" and "unbearable" pain in a half-dozen body parts when she retired in 2007, but was surveilled working out a gym and doing step aerobics. She pleaded to fraud and grand jury perjury and agreed to cooperate in 2012, but was never called to testify at a trial.
Her lawyer described her as an extremely religious woman whose behavior was aberrant. "I stand before you in shame for my part in this scheme," she told Marrero, who ordered her to pay restitution of $177,490.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for a 21- to 27-month prison sentence. Like the other two, Falloon is giving up 15 percent of her LIRR pension -- separate from the disability program -- but the LIRR agreed to keep paying her 85 percent.
Bianchini, who retired in 2003, pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in 2013 but never testified at a trial. Marrero ordered him to repay $334,000 he ripped off from the retirement board and others. Federal guidelines called for a 27- to 33-month prison sentence.
His lawyer called him a "tremendous person" who has been devoted to caring for an ailing wife and performed other acts of charity. "All I can say is I'm very, very sorry," Bianchini told the judge.
Supper retired in 2006 claiming a variety of maladies including a bad shoulder, and "extreme pain" when he tried to grip train controls. In a note to a doctor introduced at a later trial, he worried that his shoulder might be fixable, and said "I need something besides shoulder," suggesting "back, knees ankle."
Prosecutors said he was the first retiree in the case to offer to cooperate with the government. In addition to 3 years on probation and home confinement, Marrero ordered Supper to pay back $297,000 he fraudulently got from the retirement board and insurers.
All three declined to comment after their sentencings.