CHICAGO – Six former railroad employees have been indicted on criminal charges for allegedly fraudulently obtaining federal disability benefits.
The indictments accuse the defendants of working other jobs while providing false information to the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board’s Disability Benefits Division. The defendants were charged as part of an ongoing, nationwide investigation into alleged fraud perpetrated against benefits programs administered by the RRB to rail workers and their families. The investigation is being jointly conducted by the RRB Office of Inspector General, FBI, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.
Charged in indictments returned in the Northern District of Illinois are SCOTT CARLBERG, 50, of Menomonie, Wisc., a former engineer at Soo Line Railroad; RONALD LEE CRIBBS, 49, of Hastings, Fla., a former employee of Chessie Seaboard Consolidated; ROBIE VONDERHAAR, 58, of Guttenberg, Iowa, a former foreman for Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corp.; RICHARD W. BROWNER, JR., 65, of Toms River, N.J., a former assistant line engineer at the New Jersey Transit Corp.; JAMES BONNER, 52, of Shalimar, Fla., a former engineer for Burlington North Santa Fe; and KING BRADLEY, JR., 48, of Medina, Tenn., a former conductor for Illinois Central Railroad.
The indictments were ordered unsealed this week. The defendants will be arraigned in federal court in Chicago on a date to be set by the Court.
The charges were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Martin J. Dickman, Inspector General of the RRB; Emmerson Buie, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI; and Lamont Pugh, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Division of the HHS-OIG. Valuable assistance was provided by Brian Jeanfreau, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Coast Guard Investigative Service Gulf Region. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard Rothblatt and Terry Kinney.
“Disability payments from the Railroad Retirement Board are a critical benefit for those who truly need them,” said U.S. Attorney Lausch. “Individuals who seek to fraudulently obtain these benefits jeopardize the viability of the program and must be held accountable.”
“The fraud alleged in these indictments is appalling,” said RRB IG Dickman. “My office will continue to pursue individuals who attempt to defraud the USRRB and the actors who may help perpetuate the fraud, whether they be medical professionals, contractors, private employers, or government employees. I would also like to acknowledge the hardworking prosecutors and agents assigned to this ongoing, national investigation.”
“Disability benefits are a critical lifeline for injured workers,” said FBI SAC Buie. “Defrauding the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board means stealing resources from hardworking citizens, and we will continue to work with our partners to prevent future abuses.”
“Making false statements and concealing material facts in order to obtain benefits from federally funded programs is wrong and illegal,” said HHS-OIG SAC Pugh. “Those who receive disability benefits may be deemed eligible for other federal benefits such as Medicare before attaining age 65. Therefore, falsifying information to receive benefits that individuals are not entitled to wastes valuable taxpayer dollars across multiple federally funded programs. HHS-OIG will continue to work with our federal partners to identify instances where benefit programs are being defrauded and protect vital taxpayer dollars.”
According to the indictments, Carlberg operated and managed a tanning salon in Wisconsin for six years while simultaneously receiving occupational disability benefits; Cribbs worked in the construction and landscaping trades for various companies in Florida for six years while simultaneously receiving occupational disability benefits; Vonderhaar managed a construction company in Iowa for three years while simultaneously receiving occupational disability benefits; Browner co-owned and managed a donut shop in New Jersey for six years while simultaneously receiving occupational disability benefits; Bonner captained a chartered fishing boat in Florida for three years while simultaneously receiving occupational disability benefits; and Bradley worked for a construction company for six years while simultaneously receiving total and permanent disability benefits.
The charges seek cash forfeiture from the defendants in the following amounts: Carlberg $273,974; Cribbs $145,000; Vonderhaar $110,732; Browner $226,443; Bonner $10,180; and Bradley $211,650.
The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Carlberg, Cribbs, Vonderhaar, and Browner face multiple counts of wire fraud, each of which is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison. Bonner and Bradley are charged with making materially false statements to the FBI and RRB, which is punishable by up to five years. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
If you believe someone you know is receiving fraudulent disability benefits from the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board, you can anonymously contact the USRRB OIG by calling 1-800-772-4528 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.