By: NY1 News
Ten Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees were arraigned in Downtown Manhattan today 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 today 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 scanning the barcodes in lockers, and that the falsifications may have lasted as long as a decade due to a lack of internal controls.
Magalong is also charged with encouraging maintainers to increase the number of falsified inspections.
The MTA inspector general started his “Signalgate” investigation two years ago, and then received help from the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
Union lawyers, who represent six of the defendants, say they were under pressure to do too many duties with no compensation.
“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.
MTA officials say they have new methods to report and prevent suspicious inspections.
All 10 defendants were released on their own recognizance and will be due back in court on Thursday.