Ex-LIRR worker Eric Axelson sentenced to 1 year for part in copper theft scheme
A former Long Island Rail Road signalman was sentenced Tuesday to 1 year in jail for conspiring to steal copper wire from his employer to sell it for scrap, Nassau prosecutors said.
Eric Axelson, 52, of East Patchogue, was among 15 LIRR workers and two others who authorities said were part of a three-year scheme to steal $250,000 worth of copper and sell it for scrap under the noses of unsuspecting managers.
So far, 14 of the 15 defendants convicted have been sentenced, one person was acquitted and one case is still pending, the Nassau district attorney's office said.
Axelson, part of the communications department in charge of maintaining railroad yard signal systems, pleaded guilty in August to two counts of misdemeanor fifth-degree conspiracy and paid restitution of $20,000 to the LIRR, prosecutors said.
"This employee not only stole from his employer, but from taxpayers and paying customers as well," District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement.
Between Jan. 1, 2010, and Jan. 10, 2013, Axelson participated in the conspiracy, Rice said.
Following a June 2012 tip to MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger's office, investigators used surveillance to uncover the scheme, which played out at LIRR facilities in Brooklyn, Jamaica, Garden City and Babylon. The workers loaded new and used copper communications and power cables onto LIRR vehicles, then transferred the material to personal vehicles. The copper was sold at Two Brothers Scrap Metal in Farmingdale and the money divided, prosecutors said. No one at the business has been charged.
After the arrests, Kluger raised questions about "the lack of effective supervision" of the employees accused of stealing copper.
LIRR president Helena Williams at the time pledged immediate action to improve security, fire the employees and take away their pensions.
"The LIRR does not tolerate employees who steal from their employer and from the taxpayers who support our operation," Williams said in a statement released Tuesday by the district attorney's office.
LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said all 15 resigned under charges, which allows them to avoid facing internal charges. Efforts to take away their partial or full pensions are ongoing, he said.