One Long Island Rail Road retiree accused of disability fraud used public discount passes to golf on the cheap after saying he couldn't work, and another boosted his pension with hundreds of hours of overtime just before retiring, according to federal court testimony Wednesday.
The golfer, former conductor Michael Costanza, 60, of Merrick, who claimed he had severe carpal tunnel syndrome, used a discount pass on Nassau County courses and a free pass for the disabled on state courses and even tried to recruit friends on Facebook.
"First day of 18 holes at Eisenhower," Costanza wrote in April 2012, an FBI agent testified. "Not too bad. Looking to make this a regular event on Fridays. Anyone interested, let me know."
The testimony came as prosecutors completed their case on the eighth day of trial against Costanza and former LIRR crew supervisor Frederick Catalano, 52, of Nesconset, who are charged with being part of a scheme to make phony claims for hundreds of LIRR workers to the federal Railroad Retirement Board.
When he applied for disability benefits in 2011, Catalano claimed debilitating back, neck and shoulder pain that made sitting, standing and bending hard and painful. But he had increased his pension by working 1,489 hours of overtime in the previous 17 months, according to LIRR records that were introduced.
Prosecutors have also introduced evidence that Catalano pursued a martial arts black belt after retiring. Wednesday, they displayed a MySpace page on which he described himself as "athletic," and travel records indicating that, despite his claim of problems sitting, he took plane flights to Cancun annually from 2009 to 2012.
Costanza, who claimed disabling knee, back, shoulder, hand, ankle and neck pain when he left the LIRR in 2004, golfed 18 times at Sunken Meadow and Bethpage from 2004 to 2007 on his free pass for the disabled, and resumed golfing nine more times on a county discount pass in 2010, county and state record-keepers said.
He also passed annual physicals as a volunteer firefighter in North Merrick, said fire district doctor Jorge Gardyn. He was asked what Costanza put on a form in 2008 that asked him to list "all medical problems."
"That there are none," Gardyn said.
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