Ex-LIRR worker 26th to plead guilty in disability scam

Former Long Island Rail Road worker Donald Alevas of Patchogue pleaded guilty Monday to lying to get federal disability benefits, making him the 26th person to admit being part of a scheme to defraud the Railroad Retirement Board.

"I made a material false statement about the ability to perform certain activities. The ability to drive, the ability to walk and the ability to stand," Alevas, 54, the LIRR's former director of shop equipment, engineering and environmental compliance, told U.S. Magistrate Michael Dolinger.

Alevas faces up to 5 years in prison on one count of making a false statement in his application for retirement benefits. Advisory federal sentencing guidelines call for him to get zero to 6 months.

Prosecutor Tatiana Martins called it a "unique" case because Alevas, who wears a hearing aid, had a hearing impairment that might have qualified him for a disability, but in his application, he claimed other physical problems as well.

Alevas declined to comment as he left federal court in Manhattan.

"He's a very good man, and he does have regret and remorse," said his lawyer, Robert del Grosso of Mineola.

Prosecutors alleged that months before he retired in 2008 with annual disability payments of $33,000 for hearing, back and neck problems -- on top of a $55,000 LIRR pension -- Alevas wrote emails discussing a plan for timing a disability claim to coincide with his early retirement date.

The criminal complaint also said Alevas plotted with Dr. Peter Ajemian of Syosset, who has pleaded guilty, to fabricate medical notes from an exam that never took place and claimed that he was in good health in applications for private disability insurance at the same time he was planning his federal disability claim.

In addition to the 26 individuals who have pleaded guilty in the scheme, three others were convicted at trial this month. Charges remain outstanding against just four of 33 defendants charged.

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