New indictment eyed in LIRR fraud case

Joseph Rutigliano, a retired LIRR employee, exits federal

Joseph Rutigliano, a retired LIRR employee, exits federal court in Manhattan. Rutigliano was one of 10 people arrested by federal agents in connection with a $300 million scheme to defraud the Long Island Rail Road on disability claims. (Oct. 27, 2011) (Credit: Patrick McCarthy)

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are considering a new indictment in the Long Island Rail Road disability fraud case that would add to the 11 people already charged and seek forfeiture of ill-gotten payments.

"There is a contemplation that there may be more defendants," prosecutor Justin Weddle told U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero during a status hearing in federal court in Manhattan on Friday.

Weddle did not identify how many new defendants were under scrutiny, but said that any superseding indictment would likely be ready in 45 days.

Two Long Island doctors, seven former LIRR workers and two so-called "facilitators" were charged last year with being part of a massive scheme to collect on phony disability claims that could have cost the federal Railroad Retirement Board up to $1 billion.

The FBI has said before that its investigation is continuing. Doctors accused of being part of the scam found that 90 percent or more of their LIRR patients were qualified, and approved more than 1,000 disabilities, according to the charges,

The federal indictment is packed with statistical evidence of the alleged scheme. But lawyers for some of the defendants told Marrero that statistical evidence of widespread fraud was irrelevant to whether individuals had lied to get their disabilities, and said they were planning to push for an early trial separate from the doctors.

"You can't show that an individual defendant is guilty because of the behavior of thousands of other people who are not even defendants," said Paul Bergman, lawyer for former LIRR worker Regina Walsh of New Hyde Park.

"Our clients are disabled or not," said Steven Scaring, representing Steven Gagliano of North Babylon. "It doesn't matter if 300 other people are or are not disabled."

Marrero said he would rule on the issues at a later date, but warned that motions to give individuals separate trials -- called severance -- were rarely granted. He set another hearing for April 20.

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