Westchester, Rockland MTA workers among those charged in fraud case
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Ten MTA workers, including two from Westchester County and one from Rockland County, have been charged with fudging subway inspections for nearly two years, officials said Monday.
Two supervisors and eight signal maintainers were charged in the agency's "Signalgate" scheme, accused of claiming to have inspected signals that they never checked at least 33 times in 2009 and 2010, according to prosecutors.
Among the accused are:
• Supervisor Oscar Magalong, 52, of Yonkers, charged with one count each of felony first-degree tampering with public records and misdemeanor official misconduct.
• Signal maintainer Edwin Whittaker, 51, of Spring Valley, charged with four counts of felony first-degree tampering with public records.
• Signal maintainer Christopher Winton, 48, of Yorktown Heights, charged with eight counts of felony first-degree tampering with public records.
The maintainers are supposed to scan bar codes attached to signals along subway tracks as they inspect them to prove they have been checked and that the equipment is safe. But prosecutors have accused worker Anthony Pellegrino, 29, of Queens, of getting his hands on some bar codes and keeping them in his locker. They also allege that Magalong told workers to say they had inspected more signals than they had. The scam was busted after a joint investigation by the MTA's Inspector General and the Manhattan district attorney.
"Failing to properly inspect the subway system can lead to delays in service and, potentially, endanger the safety of subway riders," Vance said in a statement. "No matter how lax an agency's internal controls might be, tampering with public records to cover up a failure to inspect signal equipment is never acceptable conduct."
The MTA workers were all released without having to post bail after pleading not guilty to the charges Monday. Arthur Schwartz, the lawyer representing most of the workers, could not immediately be reached Tuesday.
The workers' union said they were being used as "scapegoats for the illegitimate actions" of upper management.
An MTA spokesman blasted the union's accusation as "utter nonsense," saying, "The actions taken by these 10 individuals occurred under their own volition."
A source close to the investigation said the falsified records seemed to be an "isolated" problem, and that it did not appear that MTA management was involved in the bogus record-keeping scheme.
Also charged are supervisor Chandrapaul Hariprashad, 42, of Queens; and signal maintainers Gabriel Bucur, 58, of Queens; Abbas Chaudhry, 44, of Brooklyn; Guy Doleyres, 59, of Queens; Andrew Douglas, 53, of Brooklyn; Weiren Li, 63, of Queens; and Pellegrino, of Queens.
First-degree tampering with public records carries a maximum sentence of 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison, the Manhattan DA's office said Tuesday. Official misconduct carries a maximum of up to one year in jail.
Newsday Westchester contributed to this report.