Metro-North Hit by Worker Fraud Charges

Metro-North Railroad, still reeling from the fatal train wreck on December 1 and consequent operating changes forced by federal inquiries, now is contending with an investigation by the inspector general of its parent agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to reporting by Matt Flegenheimer in The New York Times (Dec. 19). The investigation, covering a period earlier in 2013, found that every foreman on the railroad covered by the investigation “abused his position by engaging in nonwork related activities during business hours”, simultaneously involving subordinates in the scams and filing inaccurate time sheets.  The audit appears to be more of a sampling than a comprehensive investigation, as only 8 individuals were investigated; still, the fact that all 8 were found to be at fault suggests that a wide pattern of fraudulent behavior within the railroad’s personnel may exist.  Specific incidents cited included long trips during working hours for nonbusiness purposes, including trips to Pennsylvania to buy cigarettes and, apparently, fireworks (the work locations of the individuals were not reported; it should be noted that one Metro-North location, Port Jervis, lies at the Pennsylvania-New York border); another individual was noted as driving aimlessly for hours while collecting overtime.  A previous investigation, reported in September, focused on machinists and their supervisors, and reported work days spent largely at fast-food chains and a hardware store.

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NJT Conductor Nabbed in Ticket Fraud

A highly-paid NJT conductor has been arrested for reselling used rail tickets.  According to reporting by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (Sept. 23), Joseph Abate, a 46-year-old 24-year NJT veteran, made $57,346 in regular salary last year, plus $33,415 in overtime—but apparently that wasn’t enough.  He concocted a scheme to sell apparently unused tickets to a newsstand in Penn Station in Manhattan, from which they would then be resold to prospective riders.  The scheme fell through when the newsstand turned the tickets over to NJT police.

The first incident took place in March; the cops determined that the tickets were worth over $1000.  Then, on September 20, Abate tried it again, selling 281 tickets worth over $4000 to the newsstand, which turned them over to Detective Michael Bavosa of the NJT Police Fraud Unit after investigation by George Gernon of Amtrak’s police force.  Abate was then arrested and charged by the Manhattan District Attorney with 2 counts each of grand larceny and possession of stolen property.

This was not the first case of fraud perpetrated by NJT train crew, according to Frassinelli’s article.  In 2010, an assistant conductor pleaded guilty to reselling tickets, and last year, on the North Jersey Coast Line, a conductor was arrested for recruiting passengers to pay him a reduced fare in exchange for him not actually punching their tickets.