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Former LIRR conductor pleads guilty in disability fraud scheme

Commuters wait of the platform as a Long

Commuters wait of the platform as a Long Island Railroad train pulls into the Huntington LIRR station on the afternoon of July 25, 2012. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

A former Long Island Rail Road conductor pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to disability fraud, becoming the 23rd person to do so as part of a massive fraud investigation, federal prosecutors said.

Richard Ehrlinger, 66, of Bay Shore, faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of making a false statement to the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board by claiming disability to get more money, announced U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan.

It's the latest plea in the federal investigation into alleged fraud by hundreds of former LIRR workers.

Under the scheme, the workers would exploit the overlap between the LIRR pension plan and the Railroad Retirement Board's disability plan by filing false disability claims with the help of certain doctors, prosecutors said. Workers could retire as early as age 50, and receive an annual disability payment from the board on top of their LIRR pensions, federal officials said.

Prosecutors charged 32 people in the investigation.

In his signed, plea arrangement, Ehrlinger agreed to pay back $32,000 to the railroad board.

According to the January indictment against Ehrlinger, he filed for disability in 1998 and recertified his disability status in 2011.

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