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LIRR fraud trial against doctor to start

Joseph Rutigliano, a former United Transportation Union local

Joseph Rutigliano, a former United Transportation Union local president, exits Federal Court in Manhattan. (July 16, 2013) Credit: Charles Eckert

Opening arguments are scheduled Thursday morning in federal court in Manhattan in the LIRR disability-fraud trial involving orthopedist Peter Lesniewski and two others.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero swore in 12 regular jurors and two alternates who will decide the fate of the defendants. Defense attorneys and prosecutors settled on a panel of eight women and four men as jurors after three days of jury selection. One man and one woman were selected as alternates.

Lesniewski, 61, of Rockville Centre, is accused of being part of a conspiracy in which numerous LIRR employees filed fraudulent disability claims allowing them to receive annuities up until their pensions kicked in at age 65, the indictment in the case charges.

According to the indictment, Lesniewski submitted medical reports to the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board recommending hundreds of LIRR workers for disability benefits. Those reports falsely declared the retiring workers were disabled, the indictment charged.

Also on trial is Marie Baran, 65, of East Meadow, who worked at the RRB district office in Westbury. After her retirement in December 2006, Baran worked as a "facilitator" who assisted LIRR workers in planning for post-retirement disability, the indictment charged.

A third defendant, Joseph Rutigliano, 66, of Holtsville, is a former LIRR conductor and union president who received occupational disability benefits after his retirement based on a recommendation from Lesniewski, the indictment alleged.

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