Does the Long Island Rail Road have a mafia problem?

Five current and former MTA employees — including the sons of two convicted mob figures — now face federal conspiracy charges for alleged overtime fraud. Do the the feds need to probe for mafia infiltration of the Long Island Rail Road unions?

The indictment is due in large measure to the Empire Center for Public Policy, which blew the whistle on the MTA’s massive overtime spending in April 2019; center reports exposed three of the alleged fraudsters.

One of the indicted workers, Thomas Caputo, the LIRR’s chief measurement operator, took home a whopping $461,646 in 2018 to earn top spot as the MTA’s highest-paid employee. The Post calculated that Caputo had to be on-duty around-the-clock to earn all that overtime even if he wasn’t on the job.

Per the indictment, Frank Pizzonia, son of Gambino captain Dominick “Skinny Dom” Pizzonia, schemed with Caputo and three others “by repeatedly covering for one another’s absences from work.” Payroll records posted online by the Empire Center show Pizzonia earns $35 an hour and made $271,913 during 2019.

And now The Post reveals that Joseph Balestra Jr., charged with phony billing for 3,000 hours of overtime in 2018, is the son of a convicted weapons dealer to four New York City crime families. Joseph Balestra Sr. did hard time in the 1990s for supplying sawed-off shotguns and submachine guns to mobsters involved in narcotics trafficking, counterfeiting, truck hijacking and armed robbery.

Calling the fraudulent overtime just the tip of the iceberg, Tim Hoefer, the Empire Center’s CEO, noted that the MTA’s OT spending spiked in recent years because of inefficient union contracts. And it’s worth noting that the LIRR overtime fraud boomed only after the center helped expose an earlier scam involving faked disabilities to boost pensions.

As it seeks billions in federal aid, the MTA and its unions need to get a handle on this endemic corruption. The LIRR unions (at least) need to show they’re not controlled by organized-crime families. Future collective-bargaining contracts must include safeguards against mob influence.

This article was originally posted here