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Court papers: Former LIRR supervisor pleads guilty to conspiracy in alleged OT scheme

Image taken at the Ronkonkoma Long Island Rail

Image taken at the Ronkonkoma Long Island Rail Road train station in March 2020. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

A former Long Island Rail Road supervisor admitted to a federal judge Tuesday that he was part of a conspiracy to defraud the railroad through an overtime scam and now faces up to 16 months in prison when he is sentenced later this year, his defense attorney said and court papers show.

John Nugent, 50, formerly of Rocky Point, in pleading guilty to one conspiracy count, told Manhattan Federal District Court Judge Paul A. Engelmayer that he siphoned off just over $34,000 in fake overtime, according to attorney William Wexler. Nugent, who worked as a crew foreman, is the first of five railroad defendants in the case charged in the case to plead guilty.

The proceeding before Engelmayer was supposed to be accessible to the public and news media over a telephone link that for reasons which were unclear didn’t allow such access. But the court docket confirmed that Nugent changed his not guilty plea entered earlier this year to guilty on the conspiracy count.

Nugent, who now lives in Florida, remains free on bond after entering his guilty plea and is slated to be sentenced in November when he faces a possible prison term of 10 to 16 months, according to Wexler.

Aside from admitting his guilt to the conspiracy charge, Nugent made no other statements to the court, his attorney said.

In February, Nugent was one of five former and current LIRR employees indicted on charges they netted over $1 million in overtime paid for time they didn’t actually work. The indictment alleged that the defendants, instead of working, were often actually at home, running long-distance races, bowling, vacationing at resorts in Williamsburg, Virginia or enjoying concerts in Atlantic City.

In Nugent’s case, the conspiracy count charged him with submitting a labor sheet to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the parent of the LIRR, in which he falsely reported that he had worked an entire overtime shift nearly 14 hours in September 2018.

Four other defendants remain in the case and Wexler, as well as court records, indicated that most are in the midst of plea negotiations with federal prosecutors.

The one exception so far is Frank Pizzonia, who court records indicated currently intends to go to trial and has filed motions to dismiss the charges on various grounds. Pizzonia is also seeking a change of venue in the case because of prejudicial publicity after news stories surfaced that he was the son of reputed Gambino crime family member Dominick Pizzonia, according to court records.

Other defendants remaining in the case include Thomas Caputo, 56, of Holbrook; Joseph Ruzzo, 56, of Levittown; and Joseph Balestra, 51, of Blue Point.

Their overtime pay resulted in "significant increases" in their salaries and earned the defendants the distinction of being among the highest-paid employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, prosecutors said.

Nugent's job was to perform track maintenance and was the 11th highest paid MTA employee in 2018, making $350,000 in salary, including $242,000 in overtime pay, officials said.

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