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Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.

District Attorney, New York County

For Immediate Release
August 20, 2012

TEN MTA EMPLOYEES CHARGED IN CONNECTION WITH SUBWAY SIGNAL INSPECTION FRAUD

Two MTA Supervisors and Eight Signal Maintainers Charged With Falsifying Records

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the arraignment of two New York City Transit (NYCT) subway maintenance supervisors and the indictment of eight NYCT subway signal maintainers for falsifying MTA records to reflect inspections of equipment that were never completed. The supervisors are charged with Tampering with Records in the First Degree and Official Misconduct, and the signal maintainers are charged with Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree.  One signal maintainer, ANTHONY PELLEGRINO, 29, is additionally charged with Official Misconduct.[1]

The design of the subway signals system ensures that the deceitful activities underlying the charged crimes do not impact public safety. But, as with all public offices, it is crucial that NYCT’s records accurately reflect the important activities that it is charged with carrying out on a daily basis.

“Our subway system is one of the oldest and most expansive in the world, and it takes significant effort to maintain it,” said District Attorney Vance. “Failing to properly inspect the subway system can lead to delays in service and, potentially, endanger the safety of subway riders. 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.  My Office will continue to work closely with the MTA Inspector General in order to ensure the safety of the city’s transit riders.”

MTA Inspector General Barry L. Kluger said: “The inspection and maintenance of all signal equipment to insure that the critical infrastructure of our subway system remains safe and sound is of the utmost importance to its riders. The charges announced today send a clear message that the falsification of signal inspections will no longer be tolerated. Unfortunately the warning signs of a lack of internal controls to ensure accountability within the signal division were not addressed by prior administrations as evidenced by the findings and recommendations contained in the MTA Inspector General reports in 2000 and 2005. Presently, I am encouraged, that the MTA and NYC Transit have finally addressed the fundamental flaws that we identified through our audits, this investigation, and Transit’s own Signal Maintenance Task Force.  We have worked closely with the Task Force to ensure comprehensive signal inspections and to deter and detect any future falsifications. I wish to thank New York County District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance and his staff for devoting their full attention and resources to this lengthy and exhaustive investigation. We will continue to monitor transit’s present efforts to finally achieve meaningful and lasting improvement in the operation of its Signal Division.”

MTA New York City Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast said: “The MTA and New York City Transit have been working cooperatively with the District Attorney’s Office and the MTA Inspector General to ensure that this unacceptable behavior is fully investigated and does not continue. NYC Transit has taken a number of actions to address the deficiencies identified as part of the investigation, ensure that the existing signal system is inspected as required and that necessary testing, and maintenance functions are completed in a timely manner. We created a Signals Asset Management Group whose role is to perform detailed scheduling, reporting and Quality Control/Quality Assurance of Signal Maintenance and Testing Activities. This group’s function includes weekly and monthly audits of the work of signal maintainers and supervisors and then verifies the findings by further regular and more in depth investigations. Of significant note, we added staffing resources to address the maintenance and testing backlog. Over 100 Signal Maintainer and Signal Helper positions were created in 2011 and 2012. As a result of these initiatives, we were able to reduce maintenance and testing backlog of equipment more than 30 days overdue by 95%.”

According to MTA regulations, NYCT subway signal maintainers are required to document inspections and maintenance performed on subway signal equipment in a logbook kept at MTA offices. After completing inspections and maintenance on the equipment, signal maintainers scan barcodes from barcode strips affixed to signal equipment in the field.  The barcodes provide proof that the work was actually done, and that the equipment is safe.  

According to the charges, between January 2009 and December 2010, eight NYCT subway signal maintainers made at least 33 false entries in logbook reports documenting inspections of equipment. A search revealed that PELLEGRINO was storing barcodes in his locker, which, under MTA rules and regulations, should only be found on subway track equipment.  By keeping these barcodes in his personal locker, PELLEGRINO was able to attempt to evade rules designed to ensure that subway equipment is inspected and maintained.

Several of the charged signal maintainers were supervised by NYCT maintenance supervisors OSCAR MAGALONG, 52, and CHANDRAPAUL HARIPRASHAD, 42. Both defendants were arraigned on August 17, 2012, and charged with Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree and Official Misconduct as a result of their involvement in the falsification of records. According to documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court, MAGALONG is charged with directing some maintainers he supervised to falsely record a greater number of signal inspections than they had actually completed. After becoming aware that the signal maintainers that he supervised falsely recorded a greater number of signal inspections than they had actually completed, HARIPRASHAD failed to take action to ensure inspections were performed, and that employees were disciplined for making the false entries.

Today’s charges are the result of a long-term investigation conducted jointly by the MTA Inspector General’s Office and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Although a special Grand Jury was empanelled and heard extensive evidence, the law prohibits the District Attorney’s Office from speaking about the evidence or witnesses that were presented to the Grand Jury. However, separate from the Grand Jury proceedings, the District Attorney’s and the MTA IG’s investigation involved the examination of thousands of pages of signal inspection records, dozens of interviews of current and former Signals Division personnel – from signal maintainers to the Chief Signals Officer – and an extensive review of MTA signal maintenance procedures. The DA’s Office and the MTA IG also spoke extensively with officials of the Transport Workers Union, Local 100, to ensure that any relevant evidence in the hands of the union was considered, particularly with respect to any involvement by NYCT management.

The investigation examined in detail whether the practice of falsification of inspection logs was directed or condoned by NYCT management. With the exception of the charges filed against MAGALONG and HARIPRASHAD, who were line-level supervisors, the investigation did not reveal participation by signals management in the falsification of safety records. Sufficient evidence was developed to charge the ten individuals announced today.

Since the conclusion of the investigation, the MTA and NYCT have taken steps to ensure that regularly scheduled maintenance and inspections are conducted as required, including:
•    New auditing procedures have been established to identify and investigating suspicious records;
•    Upper management within the Signals Division has been replaced and additional signals personnel have been hired,
•    A new computer system was implemented to better track equipment inspections; and
•    The “Fast Track Program” was established, which enables workers to inspect and maintain equipment uninterrupted by approaching trains.

Assistant District Attorney Richard Buckheit, Senior Investigative Counsel in the Rackets Bureau, is handling the prosecution of the case under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Daniel Brownell, Chief of the Rackets Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Daniel Cort, Chief of the Public Integrity Unit. Investigative Analyst Sofia Pinedo-Padoch and Trial Preparation Assistant Evan Omi assisted in the investigation.

District Attorney Vance thanked the MTA Office of the Inspector General, specifically Senior Investigative Attorney Gregory Cho, acting under the supervision of MTA Inspector General Barry L. Kluger, and Assistant Deputy Inspector General Christopher Wieda. Senior Principal Investigator Charles Lienau and Staff Auditor Eileen Teehan also assisted in the investigation.

Defendant Information:
GABRIEL BUCUR, D.O.B. 05/25/54
Sunnyside, NY

Charges:
•    Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree, a class D felony, 5 counts

ABBAS CHAUDHRY, D.O.B. 12/11/67
Brooklyn, NY

Charges:
•    Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts

GUY DOLEYRES, D.O.B. 05/28/53    
Rosedale, NY

Charges:
•    Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree, a class D felony, 4 counts

ANDREW DOUGLAS, D.O.B. 11/07/58
Brooklyn, NY

Charges:
•    Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts

WEIREN LI, D.O.B. 03/29/49
Flushing, NY

Charges:
•    Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree, , a class D felony, 6 counts

OSCAR MAGALONG, 12/05/1959
Yonkers, NY

Charges:
•    Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree, a class D felony, 1 count
•    Official Misconduct, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count

ANTHONY PELLEGRINO, D.O.B. 02/09/83
Maspeth, NY

Charges:
•    Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree,  a class D felony,  2 counts
•    Official Misconduct, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count

EDWIN WHITTAKER, D.O.B. 03/13/60
Spring Valley, NY

Charges:
•    Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree, a class D felony, 4 counts

CHRISTOPHER WINTON, D.O.B. 12/17/63
Yorktown Heights, NY

Charges:
•    Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree, a class D felony, 8 counts

CHANDRAPAUL HARIPRASHAD, D.O.B. 11/15/1969
Hollis, NY

Charges:
•    Tampering with Public Records in the First Degree, a class D felony, 1 count
•    Official Misconduct, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count

[1] The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.