MINEOLA, NY (MorichesDaily/AP) — Nassau County prosecutors have charged 15 Long Island Rail Road employees and two others with stealing more than $200,000 in copper wire from the railroad and selling it for scrap.
The defendants surrendered to authorities and were arraigned Friday. Charges in the indictment vary from conspiracy to grand larceny to possession of stolen property to theft of services.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said the workers would steal new and used copper wire from railroad yards and then sell it to Two Brother’s Scrap Metal in Farmingdale.
Between Jan. 1, 2010 and Jan. 10, 2013, prosecutors said sales of the copper netted the alleged thieves more than $253,000 — money that should have gone to the LIRR which was in the midst of budget woes, pension scandals, and rising passenger fares, CBS 2′s Jennifer McLogan reported.
“15 MTA employees stole copper cable, took the copper wire to a covert location in a Long Island Rail Road-owned vehicle, and then transported it to a salvage yard,” said Rice.
“At a time when riders are weeks away from yet another fare increase, these thefts are particularly reprehensible,” stated Mark Epstein, chair of the LIRR Commuter Council. “The LIRR must re-examine its policies and procedures to ensure incidents of this kind don’t happen again.”
LIRR President Helena Williams said the agency is tightening security measures to prevent future thefts.
Those accused in the scandal have been identified as Craig Borsetti, 31, of Mastic, Afiba Moore, 26, of Brooklyn, Jose Almonte, 31, of Babylon, Eric Axelson, 51, of East Patchogue, Andrew Burke, 48, of Sayville, Christopher Callesano, 31, of Bethpage, Michael Campbell, 33, of Bethpage, Robert Toomey, 50, of Hicksville, Michael Carsten, 26, of Amityville, Russell Genoino, 35, of Farmingville, Kevin Graham, 29, of West Islip, Panikos Pafitis, 33, of Mastic, Daniel Petroro, 26, of Islip, Daniel Rose, 35, of Rosedale, Daniel Santander, 33, of Elmont, Leroy Simmonds, 50, of Bridgeport, Conn. and Adisa Springle, 30, of Brooklyn.
Nassau Assistant District Attorney Christiana McSloy said in the Mineola courtroom that investigators used surveillance video to uncover the scheme, which involved LIRR workers stealing “extensive amounts of copper cable while on job time,” taking it off LIRR property, then driving it in personal cars to salvage yards and selling it for scrap.
Attorney Edwards Jenks, of Mineola, who represents Toomey and Moore, described the group of defendants as “basically blue-collar guys . . . working hard.”
He said that the charges involve the removal of “abandoned copper that’s been laying around for 50 to 100 years on the side of the road.”
“It certainly was not going to be used again,” Jenks said.
The LIRR has said it makes up to $1 million a year selling discarded metal from its tracks, including copper, for scrap.
The alleged scheme was uncovered in an investigation by the MTA Police, the MTA inspector general’s office and the Nassau County district attorney’s office.
Christopher Natale, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen Local 56 — the union representing the workers — said earlier in the week that the charges came as a “shock” to him.
The workers have been suspended without pay.
The defendants face one to seven years in prison if convicted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.