Former LIRR conductor ordered to repay more than $226,000 in disability benefits

A train on the Port Jefferson branch of A train on the Port Jefferson branch of the Long Island Rail Road. Photo Credit: Chris Ware

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A former Long Island Rail Road conductor who was part of a massive pension fraud scheme was sentenced Monday to two years of probation and restitution of $226,645 in fraudulent disability benefits he had collected.

"I am extremely sorry for what I did," James Reiser, 60, formerly of Farmingdale, who now lives in Stuart, Fla., said before he was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Manhattan by Judge Kimba Wood. "I would like to apologize to my family and to my close friends."

Wood said she was taking into account that Reiser had no prior criminal record and that he cooperated early in the investigation, pleading guilty in December 2012 to all eight counts in the indictment against him.

Thirty-three people -- including doctors, consultants and retirees -- have been convicted in what prosecutors say was a decades-long conspiracy to boost early retirement pensions for hundreds of LIRR workers by claiming bogus disabilities that could have cost the federal Railroad Retirement Board $1 billion.

Court papers said Reiser worked 1,150 hours of overtime and took only 10 sick days in the 16 months before his retirement in 2005. Yet he claimed in his application for disability benefits to have suffered from crippling back and neck pain, the papers said.

Reiser and other defendants "were not prevented from working and instead simply wanted to retire early with an income that approximated their pre-retirement, working income," the papers said.

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Reiser's attorney, Neil Checkman, said his client would repay the money in $5,000 monthly installments, but the judge objected to that, and noted that he had money in his savings account.

After conferring with Reiser, Checkman said the monthly payments would be $10,000.

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