Two more Long Island Rail Road retirees pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan to filing phony disability claims with the Railroad Retirement Board, making them the third and fourth of 32 defendants to admit culpability in the sprawling scandal.
"I'm here today to accept responsibility for the charges against me," Gary Supper, 58, of Glen Head, told federal Magistrate Gabriel Gorenstein.
"I signed a false application to get a disability pension from the Railroad Retirement Board even though I was capable of working," said a subdued Michael Dasaro, 58, of Oakdale.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged that dozens of LIRR workers conspired with a network of doctors and "facilitators" to collect as much as $1 billion in bogus disability payments to supplement their pensions. Prosecutors have offered an amnesty deal to uncharged retirees who turn themselves in.
Dasaro, according to the charges, received a disability assessment from a co-defendant in the case, Dr. Peter Ajemian of Syosset, who is accused of providing phony medical opinions to dozens of retirees. He said he paid $1,000 for the medical opinion.
Supper, the charges state, was diagnosed by Dr. Peter Lesniewski of Rockville Centre, who has also been charged. Supper told Gorenstein in his plea that it was "well known" that there were a few doctors to go to for disability applications.
Supper and Dasaro both retired in 2006, but prosecutors have not provided any details about their jobs or claimed disabilities. Both men agreed to cooperate with the prosecution as part of their plea deals. Lawyers for the doctors said the pleas were not "inconsistent" with their defense that they believed their patients.
Dasaro's lawyer, Matthew Mari, said after the plea that his client knew what he did was wrong, but had been caught up in a corrupt system.
"It was something everyone did as a matter of course," Mari said. "The Long Island Rail Road and the Railroad Retirement Board didn't question any of these applications. They just let them go through and I don't know why they aren't defendants. They just wanted to get rid of older workers and hire younger workers."
Dasaro faces up to 80 years in prison and Supper 60 years.