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Ex-LIRR worker pleads guilty in pension scheme

A file photo of a train pulling into

A file photo of a train pulling into the Ronkonkoma LIRR station. (Sept. 30, 2011) Credit: Ed Betz

A former Long Island Rail Road electrician pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to taking part in a massive pension scheme in which retirees filed false injury claims to score undeserved disability benefits, the prosecutor's office said.

The retired electrician, Gary Satin, is the first guilty plea in a case that has ensnared dozens of retirees and facilitators of the alleged scheme who are accused of scamming millions from the federal Railroad Retirement Board through bogus disability claims.

Satin admitted that he wrongly claimed he couldn't perform his railroad duties upon his retirement in June 2005 at 55 and filed for "sickness and disability benefits," federal prosecutors said. But after his retirement, prosecutors said, Satin nevertheless "performed landscaping, contracting and electrical work for pay."

Satin, now 63, of Mooresville, N.C., also claimed his "disability" "severely limited" his "ability to walk," prosecutors said.

In 2010, he received about $32,000 in LIRR pension payments and about $36,000 in disability payments, prosecutors said.

Satin entered the plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman in federal court in Manhattan to conspiracy to defraud the Railroad Retirement Board, which administers the disability benefits, and perjuring himself before a grand jury investigating the scheme, according to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

The perjury happened on April 28, when Satin lied to a grand jury about performing landscaping, contracting and electrical work post-retirement, prosecutors said.

Satin is expected to be sentenced to between 24 and 30 months in prison, though the court could set a harsher or more lenient punishment. He's also subject to a fine and agreed to have his railroad benefits canceled. He'll also have to forfeit about $250,000. Satin, who remains free on bail, will be sentenced Dec. 14, authorities said.

Satin's attorney, William D. Wexler of North Babylon, did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

In announcing the arrests in October 2011, federal prosecutors detailed a decade-long scheme to collect on bogus claims worth as much as $1 billion through deception like the false claims of disability. In addition to Satin, a total of 21 people have been charged, prosecutors said. Hundreds more were being scrutinized.

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