LIRR fraud jury asks for jiujitsu video during deliberations

Frederick Catalano, 52, left and standing in picture Frederick Catalano, 52, left and standing in picture at right, earned his fourth-degree black belt in jui-jitsu, and even gave a judo demonstration at the Pentagon, while collecting a disability pension from his former job as a Long Island Rail Road supervisor, according to court testimony. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert; Government Exhibit 421-B

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The jury in the disability fraud trial of two Long Island Rail Road retirees completed its first day of deliberations without a verdict on Tuesday after requesting a video of one of the defendants flipping a partner at a jiu-jitsu demonstration.

In addition to the video of defendant Fred Catalano at his fourth-degree black-belt test, which prosecutors say shows he wasn't really disabled, the jurors asked for transcripts of testimony from a prosecution medical expert and a chiropractor who treated Catalano.

Former LIRR crew foreman Catalano, 52, of Nesconset, who retired in 2011, and former conductor Michael Costanza, 60, of Merrick, who claimed a disability in 2004, are accused of conspiring with hundreds of other retirees to make phony claims to the federal Railroad Retirement Board.

The trial in federal court in Manhattan lasted two weeks, and jurors deliberated for 6 1/2 hours Tuesday. Of 33 doctors, consultants and retirees charged, 28 have pleaded guilty and three were convicted at trial.

The jiujitsu video from 2010 has been a centerpiece of the case against Catalano, who also took part in a Pentagon jiujitsu demonstration after claiming to be disabled. He contends that jiujitsu is a martial art that requires less physical exertion than it appears.

The prosecution expert, orthopedist Dr. Alton Barron, and chiropractor Gerard Smith of Nesconset offered conflicting testimony at trial.

Barron, who was paid $11,000 to examine records of the two defendants, testified that there was no concrete evidence of the disabilities they claimed, but he never examined either one.

Smith, who treated Catalano off and on since 2003, disputed Barron's conclusion, saying Catalano had anomalies in both the upper and lower spine that caused neck and back pain that were unusual for a man Catalano's age.

Most of the retirees charged in the disability cases used one of three doctors who approved dozens of claims and were named as co-conspirators by prosecutors. Catalano is one of the few who was not diagnosed by those three.

Don't miss another story about your community. Sign up for the Newsday Now newsletter!

You also may be interested in: