Third alleged LIRR OT cheat to rescind not guilty plea in federal case

Jul 22, 2021
Third alleged LIRR OT cheat to rescind not guilty plea in federal case

Another Long Island Rail Road time-sheet cheating suspect plans to reverse his “not guilty” plea in the federal fraud trial against him and five railroad colleagues, according to court documents.

Track foreman John Nugent, 50, will appear in court on July 27 to change his plea, court docs said — making him the third accused overtime cheat to do so after alleged co-conspirators Joseph Balestra and “Overtime King” Thomas Caputo indicated plans to plead guilty earlier this month.

The five men face charges for allegedly covering for each other in order to bank thousands of dollars in pay for time they did not work by taking advantage of what MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny has called an “honor system” for reporting hours.

The group of LIRR staffers “worked together to fraudulently claim pay for hours they did not work by … repeatedly covering for one another’s absences from work while nonetheless understanding that time sheets including the unworked hours would be submitted,” court papers say.

Alleged overtime fraud co-conspirator Joseph Balestra.
Alleged overtime fraud co-conspirator Joseph Balestra.
Robert Mecea

Cell phone data reviewed by federal investigators placed Nugent nowhere near work on at least six occasions in 2018 while he was collecting wages, according to prosecutors.

Nugent resigned from the LIRR on Jan. 27, shortly before his indictment in February, the MTA said. The Rocky Point, Suffolk County, resident earned $230,478 in 2020, according to the Empire Center’s SeeThroughNY database of government salaries.

Those earnings were significantly less than the $350,056 that Nugent took home in 2018 — including an unfathomable 2,918 hours of OT worth $242,000, court docs show.

The US Attorney’s Office in New York’s Southern District declined to comment.

Nugent made $230,478 in 2020 and $350,056 in 2018.
Nugent made $230,478 in 2020 and $350,056 in 2018.
Joseph M. Calisi

An MTA spokesman called the allegations “outrageous and unacceptable.”

“We have cooperated fully with investigators and appreciate their shared interest in rooting out corruption,” said the spokesman, Andrei Berman. “We’ve also taken a range of steps to reduce abuse of the overtime system and those efforts have already resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.”

Nugent’s lawyer did not return a request for comment.

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