NEW YORK (AP) — Long Island Rail Road retirees who faked disability claims in order to get more lucrative pensions would avoid prosecution and be able to keep their benefits if they admit wrongdoing under a deal with the federal government, officials said Tuesday.
In announcing the arrest of an additional 10 people in the months-long probe, federal officials also said they are offering an amnesty program for others to come forward by July 6. In exchange for admitting they made false or misleading statements to get more money from disability claims, former workers would be able to keep their pension benefits and won’t be prosecuted.
But those arrested or under investigation are ineligible for the deal.
Six retirees were arrested Tuesday morning on Long Island, FBI spokesman J. Peter Donald said. Another person was arrested in Florida. The charges included conspiracy to commit health care fraud and the defendants were expected in court later Tuesday.
The round-up came five months after an initial batch of 11 arrests targeted railroad retirees who had been granted early retirement because of supposed on-the-job injuries, only to be spotted later playing golf and tennis, working out, and even riding in a 400-mile bike race. Two doctors were charged with fabricating or exaggerating medical assessments to bolster bogus claims.
While fewer than two dozen people have been arrested so far, authorities have said they suspect that hundreds of other workers pulled similar stunts, inflating future pension costs for the commuter rail system’s retirees by an estimated $1 billion.
Under the amnesty program, workers who respond by July 6 give up the right to all future disability benefits. Workers who respond by Aug. 10 would also have to give back half the money they received under the phony circumstances, LIRR President Helena Williams said the program was an important opportunity for anyone else who has been dishonest.
“We urge those involved to carefully consider this offer. These federal pension benefits — administered by the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board — must be reserved for those who are truly disabled,” she said in a statement.