A former office manager for the doctor at the center of the Long Island Rail Road disability fraud scandal was sentenced to six months of home confinement Friday for lying to federal investigators probing the case.
Maria Rusin, 57, of Plainview, was put on probation for three years by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in federal court in Manhattan after telling him in a statement punctuated by sobs that working for Dr. Peter Ajemian and lying about her knowledge of the LIRR scam were the worst mistakes of her life.
"I am very sorry for what I have done," the mother of two said as her husband and one daughter looked on anxiously.
Thirty-two doctors, LIRR retirees and so-called facilitators have been charged since 2011 in a decadelong scheme to submit phony disability claims to the federal Railroad Retirement Board to supplement an early-retirement pension offered by the LIRR. Ajemian, who pleaded guilty, was accused of endorsing hundreds of phony claims.
Rusin managed Ajemian's office from 2000 to 2009, helping retirees fill out disability applications. She was recorded on a call admitting she knew disabilities were used to supplement pensions, and were typically claimed as of the day retirement began. In a guilty plea, she admitted later lying to the FBI about her knowledge of the scheme.
Rusin faced up to 5 years in prison, and federal sentencing guidelines called for her to get 10 to 16 months in prison.Prosecutors wanted a sentence in that range, arguing that there had to be some punishment to deter people from lying to the FBI.
Marrero gave no reasons for deciding against a prison sentence, but Rusin's lawyer Henry Mazurek portrayed her as a sympathetic Uruguayan immigrant who had worked hard her whole life with her husband, a waiter, to build a modest life and raise two children, and then panicked when the FBI questioned her."She just thought if she said 'I don't know,' they would just go away," he said. "Ms. Rusin was scared and she did the wrong thing."