Two Long Islanders are among 13 current and former MTA employees indicted on charges they cheated to obtain questions and answers to Metro-North Railroad exams required to become conductors or engineers, prosecutors said.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. on Monday announced the indictments of Dennis Degenfelder, 36, of Holbrook, Danielle Bonge, 45, of Lindenhurst, and 11 others. In a news release he said they shared digital copies of Metropolitan Transportation Authority safety tests via email.
Each of the 13 is charged with multiple counts of impairing the integrity of a government licensing examination, a class D felony. Degenfelder is charged with eight counts, Bonge three.
According to the indictment, between December 2013 and May 2014, nine defendants, including Degenfelder, emailed photographs of three different tests and the answers to other conductor candidates. The tests covered such topics as speed limits and safety procedures.
Degenfelder was able to access the exam and record a portion of it with his cellphone -- while an instructor was out of the room -- before emailing the test to several classmates, prosecutors said.
Three prospective engineer candidates, including Bonge, distributed digital copies of three different tests to other locomotive engineer candidates who had yet to take the exam, officials said.
The eight tests wrongfully obtained and distributed between November 2011 and May 2014 at Grand Central Terminal have been replaced by new versions, officials said.
Vance said helping candidates cheat on their license exams "poses potential dangers far beyond the act of passing answers."
MTA Inspector General Barry L. Kluger said the alleged cheating was uncovered by a joint investigation with MTA police and called the conduct "unacceptable and deplorable."
Metro-North said in a statement that it immediately brought in MTA police and the MTA inspector general for an independent investigation when it learned of the allegations a year ago. It also retested candidates and disbanded one class of conductor trainees.
Metro-North also said "it is confident that the railroad is safe for its customers and employees, and that every engineer and conductor is competent and qualified to do their jobs."