Two of the four remaining Long Island Rail Road retirees with outstanding charges of disability fraud pleaded guilty Monday as their trial was about to begin in federal court in Manhattan.
Former conductor Thomas Coscetta, 62, of Southold, and dispatcher Kevin Neville, 56, of Islip Terrace, each face a maximum of 20 years in prison after back-to-back pleas to conspiracy to defraud the federal Railroad Retirement Board.
Thirty-one of 33 retirees, doctors and facilitators charged in a massive scheme to collect money on phony disability claims have either pleaded guilty or have been convicted.
Jury selection began Monday for the final two defendants, Michael Costanza, 60, of Merrick, who allegedly worked as a firefighter after claiming his disability; and Frederick Catalano, 52, of Nesconset, who allegedly trained for a fifth-degree jujitsu black belt. Opening statements are expected Tuesday or Wednesday.
Coscetta, who faces a likely sentence of 27 to 33 months under federal sentencing guidelines, agreed to forfeit $307,581 in fraudulent disability benefits as part of his plea agreement.
Prosecutors had claimed that he engaged in competitive trap shooting after going out on disability. He was jailed earlier this month after the government charged that he had threatened a witness at his shooting club who he believed had informed on him.
"I knowingly completed and submitted false forms along with others to the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board," he told a magistrate at his plea. "I knew this was wrong."
His lawyer, Dennis Lemke, said that although Coscetta remains in jail pending his sentencing, the government will not file any charges based on the alleged threats. "He's remorseful about the whole situation," Lemke said.
Neville faces a similar sentence, of 21 to 27 months under the guidelines, and agreed to forfeit $211,700 as part of his plea deal. He was accused of doing extensive international travel and golfing after claiming that severe back pain made walking difficult.
"I falsely claimed I couldn't do my job because of a medical condition," he told the magistrate. "When I did these things, I knew what I was doing was wrong."