Ex-LIRR employee charged with falsifying inspection report that led to train derailment

The complaint says Conklin was employed by LIRR as a signalman with responsibilities including regular inspections of rail bonds.

News 12 Staff

Mar 19, 2021, 2:12 AM

Updated 1,121 days ago

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A former Long Island Rail Road employee has been charged with falsifying records that led to a 2019 train derailment.
The criminal complaint was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn Thursday, charging Stuart Conklin with making a false entry in a railroad inspection report. The report is required to be maintained by the LIRR under federal Department of Transportation regulations.
"As alleged, Conklin's false inspection report endangered passengers on a heavily used line of the Long Island Rail Road and potentially placed scores of riders in harm's way," said acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme. "Today's arrest sends a strong message that this Office is committed to ensuring integrity in reports that are critical to the safe operation of the transport system."
Conklin, 63, said nothing as he walked out of a Brooklyn federal court Thursday afternoon.
The complaint says Conklin was employed by LIRR as a signalman with responsibilities including regular inspections of rail bonds.
The report alleges Conklin completed an inspection report indicating that he had inspected a particular rail bond on April 26, 2019, and that the bond had passed inspection. Video footage from a LIRR camera showed that Conklin did not inspect the bond during his shift that day.
The report states that on May 25, 2019, at approximately 3 a.m., a westbound LIRR train collided with the rear of an eastbound train that had pulled onto a sidetrack to permit the westbound train to pass.
No one was injured in the crash, but it knocked out service on the South Fork over the busy Memorial Day weekend.
An investigation by the LIRR determined that the rail bond Conklin had falsely indicated he had inspected was broken and caused the derailment.
Feds also allege Conklin lied about where he was during shifts, pointing to cellphone records that showed he was about 20 miles from his workstation.
Conklin submitted a handwritten letter of resignation six days after the derailment.
Defense attorney Anthony LaPinta claims his client did not commit any crimes, but refused to discuss specifics on the case.
In a statement, the LIRR says "The LIRR does not compromise on safety – period," said LIRR President Phil Eng. "This alleged conduct is a betrayal of the public's trust and put our customers' and employees' lives at risk. We intend to pursue all available civil remedies and we thank the Eastern District of New York, U.S. DOT and MTA Inspector General for their diligent work on this case."
Conklin was released on $25,000 bond. If convicted, he faces two years behind bars.
The LIRR currently heavily relies on the honor system to keep track of inspectors. A spokesperson says they're developing technology to verify the locations of those workers in the field, but it's not clear when that would be put in place.


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