The Feds Burn 830 To Get Ajemian

The physician at the heart of the LIRR disability scandal, Peter Ajemian, is scheduled to be sentenced today in the Eastern District of New York, and chance to toy with the United States Sentencing Guidelines is too much for the government to ignore. From John Riley at Newsday :

Manhattan federal prosecutors revealed in a court filing this week that they have compiled a list of more than 800 “potential” unindicted co-conspirators in the Long Island Rail Road disability fraud scandal.

The number appeared in a sentencing memorandum on Dr. Peter Ajemian of Syosset, a doctor at the center of the scheme to collect on phony disability claims. Ajemian, who pleaded guilty, will be sentenced Friday. The government wants him to serve at least 10 years in prison.

So how do you crank up the number to reach 121 months? It’s all in the loss calculations, and the only way to get there from here is to manufacture 830 “unindicted co-conspirators” out of every Long Island Rail Road retiree on disability who was a patient of Dr. Ajemian.  So what if only 32 people were actually indicted. There are hundreds more where they came from, even though there is nothing behind the allegation but a sweeping, blanket accusation.

But it also told the defense that its trial theory was that, because Ajemian was known for approving phony disabilities, all of his patients were co-conspirators, and the 830 were nothing more than his known LIRR patients.

The list came up in arguments on sentencing because Ajemian disputed the government’s claim that his fraudulent disability certifications would have cost $100 million to $200 million. He said he did not certify some of the people listed.

The government on the other hand, contends that the list of patients wasn’t used to generate loss calculations, which leaves no explanation for the existence of the list. It’s pure kismet that this huge number of “unindicted co-conspirators” coincidentally provides the foundation for the government’s sentencing calculations. What are the chances?

Is it possible that some of the individuals on this list engaged in fraud with the assistance of Peter Ajemian? Certainly.  At the same time, there is no claim, nor anything remotely reflecting any factual basis, to suggest that everyone, or even the vast majority of these retirees, did not have fully legitimate disabilities. 

The government has yet to go anywhere near parsing the list for evidence of individual wrongdoing. That would be much too much work, when they can just offer a laundry list and engage in facile speculation that if a retiree was certified as disabled by Ajemian, he must be dirty.  The absence of logic is almost as astounding as the failure of proof. 

Having contacted Peter Riley and his editor, Monica Quintanilla, to find out whether Newsday planned to release the names on the list, no answer was forthcoming.  The next concern for the 830 sacrificial lambs is whether they will be publicly smeared, not for anything they’ve done but for their association with Ajemian. 

Following Ajemian’s guilty plea, the government took  its effort to scare the crap out of these disabled retirees a huge step further. A letter went out from the Rail Road Retirement Board, which manages the disability program, alerting them that every retiree whose disability was certified by Ajemian was being reviewed, but that Ajemian’s medical report which formed the basis for establishing the disability, would not be considered.  Why? Because Ajemian was a criminal, a fraudster as he admitted in court.

Of course, he was also a physician to whom the retirees were referred by the LIRR itself, not to mention the facilitators the LIRR urges its older employees to see.  So many went to Ajemian because that’s what they were urged to do.  And many had disabilities and just needed a physician who knew how to do the paperwork correctly, and Ajemian was the man. It would be crazy to do otherwise, not because there was any fraud involved but because knowing how to deal with government red tape is itself a virtue.

Two days after the RRB alerted retirees of the review, the other shoe dropped. Their disability was denied. Of course it was, since there was no basis for the disability when you eliminated all the supporting paperwork. It’s not as if they offered the retirees an opportunity to provide supporting documentation from a different physician, or their surgical records from their double hip replacement, or their decade of physical therapy. Nope, two days later, before there was any chance of responding, it was a done deal. DENIED.

The wholesale absence of due process, but substantive and procedural, in this scheme to oust a generation from disability is overwhelming.  Had this been done to a cop, you can bet the union would have had a cadre of lawyers beating down the courthouse doors with an action for this baseless deprivation of due process. But these were LIRR retirees, and they were left to dangle in the wind, as nobody wanted to stand up for them after they were collectively tarred and feathered in the media. So they are left to deal with a bureaucracy determined to deny them benefits on their own.

And now they learn that they’ve been made the pawns in the government’s chess game with Ajemian over sentence.  They have the fear of a public outing by Newsday hanging over their heads, despite the fact that no one has ever parsed their individual circumstances to determine whether there is even the slightest taint of wrongdoing on their part.  But it’s far easier to just label the bunch “unindicted co-conspirators” than actually ascertain whether any one of the 830 engaged in fraud or are men and women who gave decades of their life to work on the railroad, and now live in pain from the disabilities of a hard life on the tracks. 

Who cares if we just pile on to their suffering? What comes after their benefits being baselessly and absurdly cut off and they wake up every morning in fear of the potential for a public smearing?  After all, everybody hates the LIRR, so let’s take it out on every disabled retiree regardless of how honest and injured they are.

14 comments on “The Feds Burn 830 To Get Ajemian

  1. Jeena Belil

    Maintenance of Way – Track Worker and Machine Operator. “This job is considered the most labor intensive and physically demanding work in the railroad industry if not in all U.S. industries.” [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules.]

  2. Eddie


    In the prosecutors’ campaign of shock, awe and retiree smearing, it’s a game of what’s not being told as well as what is.

    Doc Ajemian actually didn’t “certify” anyone. He didn’t approve a single disability annuity request. The Railroad Retirement Board did. Ajemian collected data, sent retirees to diagnosticians and prepared narratives for the Fed’s own doctors. It was the Fed’s doctors, the very same ones who approve 82% of Social Security Disability applicants, who examined the applicants and made recommendations to the Board. And it was the Board, certainly not Doctor Ajemian, who “approved” the pensions.

    What exactly did Ajemian do? He advocated for his patients, much like that guy with a cowboy hat does for the late night TV crowd with Social Security Disability. I doubt he’ll be facing ten years in Club Fed next.

    Flogging-by-publication. That’s the penalty for choosing a career in public service combined with visiting a certain health care practitioner. So what is a “potential” or “un-named” co-conspirator to do? Warn his family of Newsday’s Holiday Weekend pull-out section with their home address and bank balances?

    What is being left out of the press releases, the FBI letters and the prosecutors’ arguments? Medical facts. Diagnoses. Ailments. Even the “schedule of qualifying ailments” hasn’t been mentioned.

    Goodness no, if any medical facts saw the light of day, the case would crumble faster than Newsday’s circulation.

  3. SHG

    While it’s absolutely true that the RRB was the one approving the disability, it’s a bit too close to ignore their reliance on Ajemian’s narrative. By “certified,” we refer to certifying on the app to the truthfulness of its contents, and there is no reason to mince words here. Similarly, the comparison to the cowboy hat guy, Charles Binder (who wears the hat because for religious reasons rather than that he looks damn cool in a hat), Binder is paid to be an advocate. Ajemian was paid to be a physician. It’s not comparable.

    All that said, your point is very well taken and accurate. It’s easy to tar the group as a whole, though if one were to look hard at most of the 830 “unindicted co-conspirators,” they would find honest people with real disabilities. So ignore the details, look at the amorphous group and don’t let facts get in the way.

  4. Eddie

    Always good to read your astute and valuable viewpoints.

    Retirees received a mass-email from one of the indicted conspirators last month who took time out from awaiting sentencing to offer advice:

    “…Word on the street has it that those who appeal the discontinuation of their benefits will be investigated by the FBI, but those who just walk away will be left alone…”

    Quite a few guys have had their annuities terminated, and quite a few have opted to walk away, including the guy with the hip replacement, who limped a little as he walked.

  5. SHG

    The retirees who don’t appeal the termination of benefits, aside from the few who aged out anyway, need to grow a pair and stop fearing the feds. They have a choice of whether live out the rest of their lives in fear, despite having done nothing wrong, or standing up and not letting the feds push them around and treat them like cattle.

    Of course, if the union grew a pair and stood up for the retirees; but then, that’s not happening either because the union doesn’t want to be “tainted” by the scandal.

  6. John Meyers

    According to the FBI’s Website, Ajemian pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and health care fraud.

    How can they consider 830 other patients at his sentencing?

  7. SHG

    The answer requires a rather in-depth understanding of how the federal sentencing guidelines loss calculations are made. If they are “co-conspirators,” then whatever sums were spent on them are attributable to the loss caused by Ajemian.

  8. Eddie

    Sentenced today to eight years in prison, plus three years of supervised release. $116.5 million in restitution plus a $200 special assessment.

    What will he actually serve?

  9. A Voice of Sanity

    Confused again. How did the state prove the mens rea of the retirees in order to deprive them of their contractual right to payment?

    Might there be a class action suit in the future to return these rights?

  10. michele satin

    I have to Laugh at this below in the NYP
    The Know Rag Newspaper~

    One railroad electrician who paid Ajemian $750 for a phony disability diagnosis was busted when he was filmed installing an underground irrigation system

    This Is My Husband, He has all the Issues that Dr A, said or he will get worse as he did, Mri`s don’t Lie, Medicals from NC Dr’s, and Surgeries to prove it.
    I have the Video of Him helping someone, That a Wonderful Neighbor took, Its a Joke.
    Hes Not Crippled, The should come in my House after hes done doing My own Yard and Popping Tylenol or walking Funky, But he got Caught and is a “Victim of Circumstance” & Now doing time, 20 months, and after 24 years of Being Married you can Only Imagine whats happening,and too Boot he of course Lost that Disability Part of His Pension since Aug 2012,And the LIRR/MTA and the DB Plan is gonna take a percentage of whats remaining, and bc its back Dated they are taking Like Most of it in the Next 2 months June & July.
    But, Maybe the Job hes doing in Prison he will send me some of his earnings for those 2 months, But not after he pays the Forfeiture money he owes.

    Tell me whats wrong here?
    This Man is Not Crippled,and is Not dead, we all Know men Push themselves especially if there a little older, at least mine does,But believe me he Pays the Price, But Once again the Truth is he is A Victim Of Circumstance.
    And the Real truth should be Told, But Because I don’t know “Legally” who did this, But I do Know who did this if that makes sense.
    I’m Limited to what I can say, Gary made one Mistake, he didn’t admit he was Given a few Bucks for helping a Friend & I quote a few.

    And this was not from the above Post in the NYRNP,it was from a Friend/enemy now.
    These people Know exactly what they did to Ruin this Man and His Family.
    But as I say this shall Pass, Might not be in the same Position in life But we will be with each other & do what we have to do!
    and That Old “Karma” will Kick in.
    M Satin

  11. kevin

    What planet are you from? These retirees signed documents swearing they cant hold pens without debilitating pan lift 20lbs or ride on public transit I just left one who down hill skis in Europe and colorado and bitches that hes being persecuted this in addition to playing golf you sir are an idiot

    1. SHG Post author

      So you met one who committed fraud? Then he should be prosecuted. That doesn’t make every retiree a fraud, and most are not and fully meet the requirements for their disability. Sorry, but one person doesn’t prove anything about all. Even you, with some thought, should be able to realize this.

Comments are closed.