A Patchogue man who formerly worked on the Long Island Rail Road plead guilty Monday to charges of lying in order to receive federal disability benefits, reports Newsday and confirmed by Patch from an announcement by the US Attorney's office.
Donald Alevas, 54, is the 26th person to admit to being part of a scheme to defraud the Railroad Retirement Board, says the report. Alevas was arrested in July 2012 on the charges, and now faces up to five years in prison. Newsday reports that advisory federal sentencing guidelines call for him to get zero to six months. Patch has confirmed these sentencing guidelines from documents issued by the US Department of Justice related to his case.
According to those documents, Alevas submitted the fraudulent statements on or around Oct. 27, 2009.
“I made a material false statement about the ability to perform certain activities. The ability to drive, the ability to walk, and the ability to stand,” Alevas is reported to have said to U.S. Magistrate Michael Dolinger.
According to the US Attorney's office, the scheme took advantage of the LIRR's contract allowing employees to retire at age 50 if they had been employed by the railroad for at least 20 years. Those that would received lower pension payments than those who retired between age 60 to 65. However, those employees who retired and claimed disability could receive disability payment from the Railroad Retirement Board on top of their pension, regardless of age. By receiving both payments, the retiree can receive an amount roughly equivalent to the base salary earned while working.
Prosecutor Tatiana Martins reportedly called the case unique because Alevas has an actual hearing disability that could possibly have been used to qualify for benefits, but other physical problems were claimed in his application.
Prosecutors said that Alevas, who was a former director of shop equipment, engineering and environmental compliance before retiring in 2008, allegedly wrote emails discussing a plan for filing a disability claim at the same time as his early retirement date. The criminal complaint also said that Alevas worked with Dr. Peter Ajemian of Syosset to fabricate medical notes from an exam that never took place, and claimed that he was in good health in applications for private disability insurance simultaneously with planning a federal disability claim. Ajemian has since also plead guilty, Newsday said.
Alevas is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 7, 2014 at 11 a.m. by U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood. So far 33 people have been charged in the LIRR disability fraud scheme, during which 26 have pled guilty and three have been convicted following trial, US Attorney's office said.
Originally published August 19, 2013 at 06:53 p.m. Updated August 19, 2013 at 10:54 p.m. with information received to Patch from the US Department of Justice.