Former Long Island Rail Road Employee, Stuart Conklin Charged with Falsifying Inspection Report
Defendant Falsely Documented Inspection of Rail Bond Subsequently Linked to 2019 Derailment in Speonk
(STL.News) Earlier today, a criminal complaint was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn charging Stuart Conklin, a former employee of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), with making a false entry in a railroad inspection report required to be maintained by the LIRR under United States Department of Transportation regulations. Conklin surrendered to federal authorities earlier today, and his initial appearance is scheduled for this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes, Jr.
Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Daniel M. Helzner, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, Northeastern Region (DOT-OIG); and Carolyn Pokorny, Inspector General for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, announced the arrest.
“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,” stated Acting United States Attorney 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.”
“This investigation demonstrates our commitment to maintaining the safety and integrity of commuter rail systems in New York and around the country,” stated DOT-OIG Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Helzner. “Working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners, we will continue to hold accountable those individuals who are responsible for inspections and oversight when their neglectful actions compromise the safety of the traveling public.”
“It was an unconscionable betrayal to all New Yorkers for this signal inspector to allegedly claim a critical piece of Long Island Railroad infrastructure was safe when he didn’t even bother to look at it,” stated MTA Inspector General Pokorny. “This is yet another example of why the MTA must stop relying on honor systems and implement systemic reforms to verify that claimed work was actually completed. By falsifying federally required documents, this individual put many riders at risk and it is a miracle no one was critically injured because of his actions.”
As alleged in the complaint, Conklin was employed by LIRR as a Signalman and his responsibilities included performing regular inspections of rail bonds. Rail bonds are electronic jumpers around joints in the rails of a railroad track to ensure continuity of conductivity for signal currents. 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 in fact did not inspect the bond during his shift that day.
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. A subsequent investigation by the LIRR determined that the rail bond Conklin had falsely indicated he had inspected on April 26, 2019, was broken and was the cause of the derailment. Conklin submitted a handwritten letter of resignation six days after the derailment.
The charge in the complaint is an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of the charge, Conklin faces up to two years in prison.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Public Integrity Section. Assistant United States Attorney Turner Buford is in charge of the prosecution.
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-MJ-329