LIRR overtime cheat gets 3 months in prison for MTA scheme

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One of the five Long Island Rail Road workers charged in a conspiracy to defraud the MTA through an overtime scheme was sentenced to three months in prison Tuesday. 

At the Manhattan federal court sentencing, Joseph Balestra apologized to his family and said he took full responsibility for his role in the scheme, in which he raked in more than $5,000 in overtime pay. 

Balestra will have to serve three years of supervised release, three months of which will be served under home confinement as part of the sentence. 

In 2018, Balestra earned $348,000 from the LIRR, including $241,000 in OT after submitting nearly 3,000 overtime hours for the year. 

Judge Paul Engelmayer said Balestra benefited from investigators narrowing their investigation to the year 2018 and limiting the number of fraudulent overtime hours to the times they were certain he was not on a work site or traveling to or from one. 

Balestra and his family.
In 2018, Balestra earned $241,000 in OT after submitting nearly 3,000 overtime hours.
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Joseph Balestra is seen asking guards for directions in the lobby of the Manhattan Federal Court house at 500 Pearl St. in Manhattan in December.
Balestra was one of five LIRR workers charged in fraud case.
Robert Mecea

“This was not a victimless crime,” Engelmayer said at the sentencing. 

“The money came from the hardworking taxpayers,” he added. “The taxpayers are indirectly the victims in this case.” 

Balestra’s co-defendants including MTA “Overtime King” Thomas Caputo, John Nugent and Joseph Ruzzo have also pleaded guilty. A fifth defendant, Frank Pizzonia, has filed papers indicating plans to plead guilty as well.

Additional reporting by David Meyer

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