No jail time for 2 in LIRR disability fraud

(L-R) Former LIRR inspector Robert Ellensohn, 59, who

(L-R) Former LIRR inspector Robert Ellensohn, 59, who was certified as a Class A firefighter for years after claiming he couldn't work, was sentenced to two months house arrest and ordered to repay $336,601 he stole from the federal Railroad Retirement Board. Steven Gagliano, 56, of North Babylon, a former LIRR signal operator who rode in a 400-mile bike race after claiming he had difficulty sitting, standing, walking and bathing, got three months home confinement and was ordered to repay $242,466. Photo Credit: Facebook; Bryan Smith

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Two more Long Island Rail Road disability scammers who cooperated with the government in prosecuting their colleagues, including a former North Merrick volunteer fire commissioner, avoided prison time at their sentencings Friday.

Former LIRR inspector Robert Ellensohn, 59, who was certified as a Class A firefighter for years after claiming he couldn't work, was sentenced to two months house arrest and ordered to repay $336,601 he stole from the federal Railroad Retirement Board.

Steven Gagliano, 56, of North Babylon, a former LIRR signal operator who rode in a 400-mile bike race after claiming he had difficulty sitting, standing, walking and bathing, got three months home confinement and was ordered to repay $242,466.

Both men pleaded guilty last year and testified as government witnesses at trial. Prosecutors urged leniency, and Manhattan U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero credited their assistance, saying they were both "truthful" and "helpful" after being targeted.

Thirty-three defendants altogether were charged and convicted in what the government says was a massive scheme by doctors, consultants and hundreds of ex-workers to claim phony disabilities that could have cost the retirement board $1 billion.

Of 16 sentenced to date, a majority -- nine -- have received no jail time. No one who pleaded guilty and cooperated has gone to prison. Of the three sentenced defendants who went to trial, two -- a doctor, and a retiree who advised others -- got 8 years in prison, and an ex-worker got 37 months.

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Gagliano, a 27-year LIRR veteran whose supporters filled three rows of the courtroom, ran in 5K races and traveled to Costa Rica and Tanzania in addition to cycling after retiring in 2006.

His lawyer, Stephen Scaring, told Marrero that the behavior was "aberrant," and Gagliano -- who was caught when he chatted with an FBI agent who he met while he was cycling -- told the judge he regretted his behavior.

"I am sorry and I'd like to apologize to the court," he said. "I'd like to also say I'm sorry to the Railroad Retirement Board which I wronged, and to the LIRR."

Ellensohn claimed he was a mechanic at his 2004 retirement, but he hadn't actually done heavy mechanical work for two decades, according to the government, and continued to drive a fire truck and respond to incidents for years after getting his disability annuity.

His lawyer, David Jacobs, said Ellensohn deserved credit for beginning to cooperate and tell "what other people had done" after he got a grand jury subpoena but before he was charged, and said he had to quit as a fire commissioner after he pleaded to a felony.

"I'd like to apologize for my actions," Ellensohn said.

Gagliano and Ellensohn both agreed to give up 15 percent of their LIRR pensions to avoid a threatened forfeiture of it, and were put on probation by Marrero for three years.

Both men had no comment after their sentencings.

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