The trial opened Monday in the case of two men charged with conspiring with a group of Long Island Rail Road workers to steal more than a quarter-million dollars in copper wire.
Suspended LIRR signal man Michael Carsten, 26, of Amityville, and Craig Borsetti, 31, of East Moriches were among 17 people -- 15 of them LIRR employees -- arrested in January in connection with a three-year-long scheme to steal copper wire from Rail Road job sites and sell it at a Farmingdale scrap yard for more than $253,000.
Nine of the defendants, including an LIRR communications department assistant foreman, have already pleaded guilty to various charges. None have been sentenced to prison, though all have been ordered to pay restitution, some as much as $25,000.
Prosecutors say that Carsten willingly went along with fellow members of the LIRR communication department's "Gang 30" in carrying out the heist, while Borsetti provided his driver's license for nearly 100 illegal scrap transactions at Two Brothers Scrap Metal in Farmingdale.
In her opening statement before the Mineola jury, Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Cristiana McSloy said that, from January 2010 until January 2013, the Gang 30 workers routinely stole new and old copper, loaded it onto LIRR trucks then transferred it to personal vehicles to take to the Bethpage home of defendant Christopher Callesano, 31, also an LIRR worker. There, they stripped the wire to remove LIRR case markings, she said.
"It's not putting a few pieces of copper in your pocket and taking it to the scrap yard. We're talking thousands and thousands of pounds," said McSloy, asserting that each defendant shared in the profits. "I don't care if you made an extra hundred dollars a week. You put that in your pocket and it adds up."
Defense attorneys for Borsetti and Carsten said their clients weren't part of the conspiracy. Carsten's lawyer, John Powers, of Deer Park, said his client, who joined the LIRR in 2008, was only occasionally assigned to Gang 30, and as "low man on the totem pole," obeyed his superiors.
Borsetti's lawyer, Anthony LaPinta, of Hauppauge, said that not only was his client not involved in the crime, but he was a victim of it. Borsetti's driver's license fell into the hands of the crooked LIRR workers after he lost his wallet, said LaPinta, who maintained that his client didn't know the other defendants and never set foot in Two Brothers Scrap. McSloy said witnesses will testify they saw Borsetti there for some transactions.
While the LIRR may have lost a quarter million dollars in scrap metal, "Craig Borsetti lost something much more valuable -- his name, his identity," LaPinta said.
The LIRR has recovered $162,888 in restitution from the defendants, said LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan.All the LIRR workers charged have resigned, except for Carsten, according to Donovan, who added that the LIRR is now "reviewing the pension implications" for the defendants.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified the department in which 15 Long Island Rail Road employees charged in the copper theft conspiracy worked. They were in the LIRR's communications department.