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Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.

District Attorney, New York County

For Immediate Release
June 29, 2015

DA VANCE: METRO-NORTH CONDUCTORS AND ENGINEERS INDICTED FOR FACILITATING CHEATING ON LICENSE EXAMS

Defendants Allegedly Distributed Digital Copies of Tests and Answers to Candidates Before Exams

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the indictments of 13 individuals, including current and former employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“MTA”), for wrongfully obtaining and distributing questions and answers to exams required to become a licensed train conductor or locomotive engineer. The defendants are charged in multiple indictments in New York State Supreme Court with Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination. [1]

“We trust train conductors and engineers to deliver us safely to work, home, and everywhere in between,” said District Attorney Vance. “In this case, the defendants are charged with helping candidates cheat on their license exams, which are designed to test individuals’ knowledge of critical safety information, such as speed limits and emergency procedures. The alleged conduct poses potential dangers far beyond the act of passing answers, and I thank the MTA and all those involved for taking steps to stop this kind of activity.”

MTA Inspector General Barry L. Kluger said: “Uncovered by this joint investigation were long-standing practices that undermined the very integrity of the testing process for conductor and engineers at Metro-North.  Such conduct is unacceptable and deplorable and should result in the imposition of appropriate criminal sanctions and discipline. While the need to end the activities as set out in the indictment was always clear, as Inspector General my priority from day one of this investigation has been to ensure that all conductors and engineers on Metro-North trains are fully qualified and competent to transport our passengers in a safe and responsible fashion.  While I find a large measure of assurance in the rigorous cycle of training, performance evaluation, and on-the-job testing, as well as the requirement for periodic re-certification, I will continue to work closely with Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti in the agency’s development of changes to the written test procedures to help prevent a recurrence of these troubling events, and I will continue to monitor their final implementation.  I wish to thank District Attorney Vance for all of his support and President Giulietti for his full cooperation.”

In order to become a licensed locomotive engineer or train conductor, prospective candidates must pass exams administered by Metro-North Railroad. The tests are designed to evaluate candidates’ knowledge of braking controls, emergency procedures, train traffic signals, speed limits, and the physical characteristics of various Metro-North lines and stations, among other things. Engineers are also required to pass several tests as part of a triennial recertification process.

According to the indictment and documents filed in court, between December 2013 and May 2014, nine defendants—MELANIE BANNISTER, BERNICE BELL, OMAR CARILLO, DENNIS DEGENFELDER, JOSEPH FOWLER, PATRICK JONES, SEAN MACAULEY, JOHN TWARDY, and DONALD FINNERTY are accused of emailing photographs of three different tests and the corresponding answers to other conductor candidates. The tests covered topics including speed limits and safety procedures.

In one instance, a defendant, DEGENFELDER, was allegedly able to access the exam and record a portion of it with his cell phone while an instructor was out of the room, before emailing the recorded test to several of his classmates.

Three prospective engineers, DANIELLE BONGE, ANTHONY “TONY” CARBONE, and COLTYN REINDEL, are also charged with distributing digital copies of three different tests to other locomotive engineer candidates who had yet to take the exam. Another engineer candidate, RAYMOND FUENTES, allegedly emailed photographs of completed answer sheets to an engineer who had not yet completed the tests as part of the three-year recertification process required for all locomotive engineers.

As a consequence of the defendants’ alleged conduct, eight different tests administered at Grand Central Terminal were wrongfully obtained and distributed between November 2011 and May 2014. As of this date, all of the above referenced tests have been replaced by new versions.

Assistant District Attorneys Elise Roecker and Daniel Haier are handling the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Tracy Conn and Jeremy Glickman, Deputy Chiefs of the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau, and Brenda Fischer, Chief of the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau; and Executive Assistant District Attorney  David Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division. The High Technology Analysis Unit, Former Cybercrime Analyst Mirielly Meiss, and Cybercrime Analyst Christine Einerson assisted with the investigation.

District Attorney Vance thanked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Office of the Inspector General, including Inspector General Barry Kluger, Former Associate General Counsel Wesley Chang, and Investigator Randy Cox. District Attorney Vance also thanked members of the MTA Police Department, including Detectives Paul Dunn and Leonard Pomposello.

Defendant Information:

MELANIE BANNISTER, D.O.B. 7/23/1980
Bronx, NY

Charged:
• Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination, a class D felony, 18 counts

BERNICE BELL, D.O.B. 8/2/1968
Bronx, NY

Charged:
• Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination, a class D felony, 2 counts

DANIELLE BONGE, D.O.B. 7/23/1969
Lindenhurst, NY

Charged:
• Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination, a class D felony, 3 counts

ANTHONY CARBONE, D.O.B. 6/6/1959

North Haven, CT

Charged:
• Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination, a class D felony, 3 counts

OMAR CARRILLO, D.O.B. 8/3/1986
Irvington, NY

Charged:
• Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination, a class D felony, 2 counts

DENNIS DEGENFELDER, D.O.B. 3/20/1979
Holbrook, NY

Charged:
• Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination, a class D felony, 8 counts

DONALD FINNERTY, D.O.B. 11/15/1967
Yorktown Heights, NY

Charged:
• Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination, a class D felony, 2 counts

JOSEPH FOWLER, D.O.B. 3/9/1984
West Haven, CT

Charged:
• Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination, a class D felony, 6 counts

RAYMOND FUENTES, D.O.B. 2/27/1974
Monroe, NY

Charged:
• Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination, a class D felony, 2 counts

PATRICK JONES, D.O.B. 6/25/1980
Harrison, NY

Charged:
• Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination, a class D felony, 2 counts

SEAN MACAULEY, D.O.B. 11/14/1975
Northford, CT

Charged:
• Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination, a class D felony, 2 counts

COLTYN REINDEL, D.O.B. 6/22/1990
North Haven, CT

Charged:
• Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination, a class D felony, 1 count

JOHN TWARDY, D.O.B. 11/13/1980
Scarsdale, NY

Charged:
• Impairing the Integrity of a Government Licensing Examination, a class D felony, 4 counts

[1] The charges contained in the indictments are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court.