MTA Workers Charged With Faking Signal Inspections
MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURT — Ten MTA officials were charged with logging dozens of fake signal inspections in order to make it seem like they were being more producutive than they were, prosecutors said.
Subway maintenance supervisors Oscar Magalong, 52, and Chandrapaul Hariprashad, 42, were arraigned last week on charges of tampering with records and official misconduct.
The other eight workers, all signal maintainers, were charged Monday for tampering with records, and released without bail Monday. One of the maintainers, Anthony Pellegrino, 29, also was charged with official misconduct.
Prosecutors said the workers logged at least 33 fake entries in MTA books between January 2009 and December 2010, claiming to have inspected the equipment.
Pellegrino allegedly stashed dummy barcodes in his MTA locker to use in order to fabricate inspections, at the behest of Magalong, who prosecutors said wanted his team to "falsely record a greater number of signal inspections than they had actually completed."
According to prosecutors, the bar codes are normally affixed to signal equipment in order to ensure that the work is done.
Officials said Hariprashad knew about the fraud and failed to stop it or discipline those entering false reports.
There has been no indication that the defendants endangered the lives of any straphangers, prosecutors said.
“No matter how lax an agency’s internal controls might be, tampering with public records to cover up a failure to inspect signal equipment is never acceptable conduct,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. said in a statement. “Failing to properly inspect the subway system can lead to delays in service and, potentially, endanger the safety of subway riders.”
Arthur Z. Schwartz, who represents six of the signal inspectors, said that his clients' attempts to flout MTA regulations didn’t endanger the public because they were reacting to what he called "excessive inspection quotas."
“We want to assure the public that at no time did any one of these people not correct, or work on, or check the safety of a signal,” said Schwartz of the Washington D.C.-based firm Advocates for Justice. “They always did the tests that were necessary to ensure the safety of the public.”
“What they were caught up in was a scheme by upper level management in the New York City Transit Authority to pump up numbers so that they would look better for those above them,” he added.
Six of the defendants represented by Schwartz are due to appear in court later this week so that the judge may determine whether there is any conflict of interest in Schwartz representing all of them.