A federal court judge on Friday sentenced a retired Long Island Rail Road electrician to 20 months in prison for stealing nearly a quarter-million dollars in disability benefits he was not entitled to, then lying about it.
Gary Satin, 63, became the first defendant sentenced in what federal prosecutors say was a "massive scheme" by LIRR retirees, doctors and so-called facilitators to defraud the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board.
Satin, formerly of Baldwin, pleaded guilty in August to fraud and perjury charges. Prosecutors said he lied about suffering from various ailments in order to collect $247,000 in disability payments, even while working at landscaping, contracting and electrical jobs in his new home of Mooresville, N.C. Prosecutors said he lied again to a grand jury to cover up his crimes.
In sentencing Satin in Manhattan, U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero likened Satin's actions to "robbing" a bank containing the pension earnings of thousands of railroad workers. Marrero noted that Satin once referred to fellow employees who didn't defraud the disability system as "suckers."
Marrero said Satin's crimes were "terribly harmful to the government and society" and "cry out for a correspondingly serious public response."
Satin stood rigid with his arms folded in front of him as he received his sentence. Moments earlier he acknowledged he was "guilty as charged."
"I made a wrong decision, and I'm sorry for it," Satin said.
Satin is among 32 defendants, including two doctors and nearly two dozen LIRR retirees, accused in the scheme.
Satin sought a sentence of probation, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Tehrani said that would have been "wholly inadequate." He said Satin's sentence needed to serve as a deterrent to other LIRR retirees.
Satin will have to pay back the $247,000 and also has given up 15 percent of his LIRR pension. He will begin serving his sentence on May 13.
Satin's attorney, William Wexler, said, despite his crimes, his client "has led a decent life" and is a "devoted husband and father."
In a statement last night, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: "With his sentence today, Gary Satin becomes the first in a long line of perpetrators to learn the price for his participation in this reprehensible scheme, but he will not be the last."
In a statement, LIRR officials said: "The LIRR has cooperated fully with the U.S. attorney's investigation of disability fraud from the outset. Federal disability benefits administered by the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board should be reserved for those who are truly disabled."
With John Riley