Feds: 4 more LIRR retirees plead guilty in disability scam

As prosecutors prepare for trial in an alleged conspiracy by Long Island Rail Road retirees to file false disability claims, four more of the accused have pleaded guilty.

Thomas Delalla, 54, of West Islip, and Frank Plaia, 55, of Hicksville, pleaded guilty Friday to seven federal charges, while Kevin Nugent, 57, of Port Jefferson Station, and Sharon Falloon, 58, of Merrick, pleaded guilty to the same charges Thursday, said the office of Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Each faces a maximum of 85 years in prison on the charges, which include fraud, perjury and conspiracy counts. Potential prison time and financial penalties will be affected by their level of cooperation with federal authorities.

Twelve people have now pleaded guilty in the case, while another 20 defendants still face trial, authorities said.

Plaia agreed to forfeit $266,637 in wrongfully obtained pension benefits; Nugent $247,033; Falloon $177,490; and Delalla $156,742.

Falloon, a retired LIRR human resources manager, got $90,000 a year in pension and disability benefits, court records show. She claimed disabling pain while walking or standing -- yet investigators saw her working out at a gym for two hours, including 45 minutes in a step aerobics class.

Plaia applied for disability in July 2007 and sent in documents to be recertified for disability payments in 2011, according to the indictment. Delalla applied in December 2008 and sent in recertification papers in 2011, the indictment said. Details on how much each got were not immediately available, Bharara's office said Friday night.

U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero, in a Dec. 13 order, approved the government's plans to prosecute the remaining defendants in two trials, each grouped under the name of an orthopedist whose diagnoses legitimized the false claims, prosecutors said. A trial date has not been set.

Under a now-expired amnesty program, 44 LIRR retirees admitted wrongdoing and gained immunity from prosecution.

All told, with an estimated 1,500 LIRR retirees filing fake disability claims, the conspiracy could have drained $1 billion from the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board's disability pension system, authorities say.

With Ellen Yan

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