A Rockville Centre man was one of three people convicted Tuesday in Manhattan federal court for his participation in a massive LIRR fraud scheme.
In the scheme, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) employees claimed to be disabled upon early retirement so that they could receive federal disability benefits to which they were not entitled.
The three defendants -- Peter Lesniewski, 62, of Rockville Centre, Marie Baran, 65, of East Meadow, and Joseph Rutigliano, 66, of Holtsville -- were convicted on all counts charged following a three-week trial before U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, bringing the total number of defendants convicted in this case up to 28.
Lesniewski, described as the "disability doctor" by Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is a board-certified orthopedist based out of East Meadow.
According to Bharara, Lesniewski recommended more than 130 LIRR workers for disability benefits. He used his medical practice as a disability mill, preparing fraudulent medical narratives for LIRR retirees well before the employees’ planned retirement dates so that the narratives could be submitted to the RRB upon retirement.
Bharara said the medical narratives were fabricated or grossly exaggerated in order to substantiate the LIRR employees’ bogus claims of disability.
In many cases, Bharara said Lesniewski failed to provide any meaningful treatment for the LIRR employees’ purported ailments. He received approximately $850 to $1,000, often in cash, for these fraudulent assessments and narratives, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in health insurance payments for unnecessary medical tests and fees for preparing fraudulent medical support for the claimed disabilities.
Bharara said LIRR employees also utilized the services of so-called “disability consultants,” including Baran and Rutigliano, to further increase their chances of fraudulently obtaining disability benefits from the RRB.
For approximately $1,000, typically paid in cash, Bharara said Baran and Rutigliano falsely filled out disability applications on behalf of their LIRR clients to maximize the likelihood that they would receive disability benefits.
Among other things, Bharara said the defendants filled their clients’ disability applications with false, cookie-cutter descriptions of their physical condition and ability to work. The defendants also hid the income they were receiving from their respective disability consulting businesses.
Lesniewski was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and health care fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of conspiracy to defraud the RRB, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, two counts of health care fraud, two counts of mail fraud and four counts of wire fraud.
Baran was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and health care fraud, two counts of conspiracy to defraud the RRB, three counts of health care fraud, three counts of mail fraud, and three counts of wire fraud.
Rutigliano was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and health care fraud, two counts of conspiracy to defraud the RRB, three counts of health care fraud, six counts of mail fraud, six counts of wire fraud, and one count of making a false statement. The count of making false statements carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Each of the health care fraud counts carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and each count of mail fraud and wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Lesniewski, Baran and Rutigliano will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero on Dec. 13, 2013, at 3 p.m.