Updated 08/20/2012 11:02 PM
Ten MTA Employees Charged With Falsifying Subway Signal Inspections
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Ten Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on charges of subway signal inspection fraud, but MTA officials stress that the inspection process has now been corrected and that the public was never at risk.
Eight signal maintainers pleaded not guilty Monday and two MTA supervisors entered not-guilty pleas on Friday to charges of tampering with public documents.
The supervisors — 52-year-old Oscar Magalong and 42-year-old Chandrapaul Hariprashad, 42 — and one signal maintainer, 29-year-old Anthony Pellegrino, are also facing charges of official misconduct.
The signals, which act like traffic lights in the subway system, are supposed to have barcodes which are supposed to be scanned during inspections.
However, prosecutors say the accused workers were sometimes keeping and scanning the barcodes in lockers.
At least 33 signal inspections were allegedly falsified between 2009 to 2010, and the MTA inspector general, who began the investigation two years ago, says inspections were faked for at least a decade.
Magalong is also charged with encouraging maintainers to increase the number of falsified inspections.
MTA officials said the faked inspections were not at the behest of senior management.
"The Manhattan district attorney's office fully investigated this claim and found nothing to back it up," said MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg.
Union lawyers, who represent six of the defendants, say the workers were under pressure to match unrealistic quotas.
"These individuals never received one cent for anything they did. They never got extra overtime, they never didn't work the eight hours that they were supposed to and what they got caught up in is a scheme by an upper-level management in the New York City Transit Authority to pump up numbers so that they would look better to those above them," said defense attorney Arthur Schwartz.
Another signal maintainer was charged last year but died before he could be prosecuted.
The MTA admits there is a backlog of equipment that needs to be tested. The agency says it has hired more signal workers to reduce the backlog.
A separate group does weekly audits to make sure the inspections are actually done.
All 10 defendants were released on their own recognizance. Six are due back in court on Thursday and the rest are due back in September.