When he should’ve been behind the wheel, an MTA bus driver was instead playing the roulette wheel on the Jersey Shore while calling out on paid sick leave. Now, he’s paying the price.
The bus driver was suspended after an internal investigation found he abused sick leave to go gambling in Atlantic City, swindling the agency out of nearly $25,000 in unearned paid time off.
The busted transit worker chanced his luck at the New Jersey resort city 95 times between 2018-2020 under the guise of being too ill to work and having to care for a family member, the Office of MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny (OIG) found.
One time, he even took a trip to Hersheypark in Pennsylvania on MTA dime, the report from the agency’s internal watchdog uncovered.
The driver, whom the OIG declined to identify, has worked at New York City Transit since 1996 and was assigned to the Ulmer Park Depot in Gravesend in southern Brooklyn.
In 2017 he began applying for time off under the Family Medical Leave Act claiming that he was unable to work due to a “serious health condition,” in addition to another application for leave to care for a family member.
He kept renewing his intermittent requests for time off and the OIG review found he used about 120 days of FMLA and sick leave between 2018-2020.
The OIG obtained records from the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Atlantic City during that two-year time period and found he used sick leave 95 times while gambling.
They also reviewed his bank data confirming the trips to the Garden State gaming haven as well as a jaunt to Hersheypark in 2018, logging 824 hours of pay he was not entitled to, or about $24,909.
Investigators first got wind of the employee’s taxpayer-funded outings during a separate investigation released in February into another NYCT worker — who concocted an almost identical scam to gamble on 70 fake sick days at the same casino.
During an interview with the OIG in April of this year, the driver admitted to abusing sick leave more than 90 times and claimed he has a gambling addiction and is currently seeking help.
However, he said he hadn’t sought treatment until the inspector contacted him for an interview.
The Inspector General determined he broke NYCT’s leave rules and the MTA’s code of ethics by violating the public trust and falsely reporting he was sick or caring for a family member.
When the OIG reached out to then-interim NYCT president Sarah Feinberg in May, the agency suspended him without pay and slapped him with disciplinary charges.
On Oct. 25, the driver agreed to pay back the transit agency for the full amount of unearned pay and the report notes that his retirement is pending.
In an emailed statement MTA spokesperson Kayla Shults told amNewYork Metro:
“This bus operator violated the trust of his colleagues and the public by abusing the MTA’s Sick Leave policy. The MTA takes this very seriously and the bus operator involved was suspended immediately.”