In addition to offering an amnesty deal that could let hundreds of Long Island Rail Road retirees who collected phony disability pensions keep the proceeds of their crime, Manhattan federal prosecutors plan to protect the privacy of participants despite their admission of wrongdoing.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Thursday that the office plans to try to keep secret both the names of the ex-workers who participate in the immunity plan offered this week and the amount they've made off their bogus disability claims.
"This information will not be public," Bharara spokeswoman Ellen Davis said in an email.
Bharara's office has indicted 17 LIRR retirees for collecting on false disability claims made to the federal Railroad Retirement Board, but believes that hundreds of others participated as well in a scheme that went on for a decade and may have cost the government up to $1 billion.
Citing the massive scope of the fraud, prosecutors sent a letter to 1,500 retirees Tuesday, offering a deal under which they could escape the threat of criminal prosecution by admitting they made false statements on their disability applications and giving up future disability payments.
Those who sign up by July 6 would get to keep all the disability payments they have received to date. Those who wait until the final deadline of Aug. 10 would have to return 50 percent of what they've received.
Under the deal, individuals' admission that they lied could not be used against them, but could be used at trial against others who have been criminally charged.