How these transit workers racked up $450,000 in an overtime payment scam

Last Thursday, a senior track inspector for the Long Island Rail Road was arrested on suspicion of overtime fraud.

Prosecutors claim that Thomas Caputo, 56, of Holbrook, LI finagled $144,000 in pension benefits from the MTA last year by falsifying the number of hours he was on the job.

Court documents indicate that Caputo “earned” $461,646 in 2018, with an annual salary of $117,499 and $344,147 in overtime. How did he do it? Not very thoughtfully as it turns out.

While Caputo was allegedly out bowling and enjoying leisure time at home, MTA logs were meant to evidence that he was working 10 hours every single weekday, weekend, and holiday in addition to his 40-hour workweek. This is a highly improbable scenario.

What’s worse, Joseph Ruzzo, 56, John Nugent, 50, and Joseph Balestra, 51, were charged alongside Caputo with one count of federal program fraud according to MTA spokeswoman Abbey Collins.

The scheme not only saw the four men become some of the highest-paid employees at the agency, but they also reportedly out earned Governor Cuomo himself—who oversees the MTA—back in 2018. If convicted, the track foremen could face up to 10 years in prison.

“We are pursuing all available options to recoup the stolen overtime and resulting pension,” Collins said.“This is an egregious breach of the public’s trust and we will take all necessary actions to root out waste, fraud, and abuse wherever it occurs.”

These charges arrived at an interesting time. Pubic sympathy for transportation workers has grown exponentially since the start of the pandemic.

Just last week, Ladders reported on a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences that determined that essential workers score higher on measures of narcissism in the time of COVID. “We studied essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hypothesized that trait narcissists would communicate more about their work during the pandemic because their work elevated their status to “hero” and provided an opportunity to shine,” the authors wrote in the new paper.

It’s true that their contribution to economic stability is invaluable but the MTA foremen accused of overtime fraud may have actually inflicted a lot more harm than good to working-class commuters.

Some of MTA overseers have claimed that the massive payouts made to the accused directly impacted fare hikes for NYC transportation in the last few years. Similarly, the US’s burgeoning retirement crisis makes the crimes detailed above even harder to digest.

Governor Cuomo expressed censure for the transit workers as they await trial.

“I think there are bad apples in every line of work,” said Cuomo. “You’re gonna have people who take advantage of the system.

“I was the attorney general in this state. There are bad bankers, there are bad brokers, there are bad doctors, there are bad college presidents.”