A one-time Long Island Rail Road manager who lied on a disability application to the federal Railroad Retirement Board got off with no jail time on Tuesday, making him the third LIRR fraudster sentenced only to probation.
Prosecutors wanted jail time for Donald Alevas, 54, of Patchogue, a former director of shop equipment planning, but U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood — citing an LIRR letter praising Alevas for giving up 15 percent of his pension — decided to be lenient.
"I agree with the government that there should be a consequence attached to lying on such an important form," Wood said. "But it's a very close case as to whether those consequences should be a term of incarceration."
She fined Alevas $5,000.
Alevas is one of 33 defendants who have been convicted in what prosecutors say was a massive conspiracy among doctors, consultants and retirees to submit phony disability claims.
Some defendants have gotten hefty sentences — including 8 years for a doctor and a consultant accused of helping dozens of retirees get phony disability pensions, and 20 to 30 months for retirees who made false claims.
But others have gotten probation, including Maria Rusin, an office worker convicted of lying to investigators; former conductor Richard Ehrlinger; and former employees services director Regina Walsh, who agreed to testify against others.
Alevas' lawyer Robert del Grosso told Wood his case was "unique" because he had a real hearing loss that qualified him for a disability, but he dressed up his application by also lying about purported orthopedic problems.
Because of the hearing problem, del Grosso said, Alevas was entitled to all the disability money he got, and neither the retirement board nor prosecutors were seeking forfeiture of the disability proceeds.
"I am sorry for what I did and I'm especially sorry for putting my family through it," Alevas said in a brief statement. He declined to comment after the sentencing.
Prosecutor Tatiana Martins argued that he shouldn't be let off scot free for submitting a form with multiple lies — claiming a herniated disc, and difficulty with tasks ranging from sitting and standing to dressing and reading English.
"Some term of imprisonment is appropriate because the flip side is to say you're not punished at all," Martins told Wood.
The LIRR has taken the position that anybody involved in the disability fraud on the Railroad Retirement Board could also face forfeiture of their LIRR pension for "misconduct, dishonesty or theft" during their employment.
Instead of going after the whole pension, the LIRR has been willing to settle cases for 15 percent — in Alevas' case about $5,000 a year. As part of the settlement, an LIRR lawyer submitted a sentencing letter to Wood telling her that Alevas deserved "credit" for cutting the pension deal.
"By virtue of this agreement, Mr. Alevas has, we submit, accepted responsibility for the harm that his fraudulent conduct inflicted on the LIRR, an acceptance of responsibility having very real financial consequences," lawyer Dietrich Snell wrote.
Wood said the supportive letter from his ex-employer was an important factor in his favor.
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