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An MTA executive scammed more than $21,000 in unearned pay by skipping about two months of work — and his boss let it happen by carelessly rubber-stamping his phony timesheets, according to an inspector general’s report made public Thursday.
The revelation marked the latest black eye for the transit agency, which made headlines in 2020 when five current and former workers were busted by federal authorities in a massive overtime fraud scheme.
In the newly revealed case, Martin Olsen falsely claimed to have worked on 39 days when he never actually showed up at his Lower Manhattan office and also left as early as noon on six other days, according to the report by MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny.
Olsen’s nearly two-year racket — in which he took time off at the last minute, then never recorded it on his timesheets — was uncovered after an anonymous tipster told officials that he was “stealing time,” the report said.
Following the discovery of his scam, which ran from January 2018 to February 2020, Olsen was suspended in May as director of on-board technology for the MTA Bus Co. and slapped with disciplinary charges, according to the IG’s report.
But he retired last month rather than fight the allegations and the MTA refused to pay him for an unspecified amount of accrued vacation time to cover some of the $21,336 he stole, the report said.
Olsen, 60, lives in Brentwood, LI, public records show, and his fiscal 2020 salary was about $126,000, according to government payroll data posted on the “SeeThroughNY” website.
The IG’s report says that Olsen’s supervisor, identified only as the chief officer of bus operations and technology systems, “allowed the theft to occur” by approving Olsen’s falsified timesheets “without comparing them” to dozens of leave requests that Olsen sent him.
Most of the requests were sent by email on the morning of the day Olsen wanted to take off, with reasons that included “I wrenched my back yesterday while turning/lifting” and “I will need to take a personal day to take care of something that came up at home,” according to the report.
The investigation also found that the supervisor “regularly failed to approve [Olsen’s} timesheets in a timely manner,” sometimes approving nearly a year’s worth in just one day, the report said.
In addition, the supervisor reportedly allowed Olsen to work through his scheduled one-hour lunch — shortening his workday to just seven hours — as an “accommodation” for an unspecified “medical issue” that was never reported to the NYC Transit Human Resources Department.
Although the IG determined that both Olsen and his boss were “untruthful” during interviews, the supervisor was let off with a 30-day suspension that cost him $21,584 in pay and a “final warning” that he’ll be fired for “the same or similar conduct.”
In a prepared statement, MTA spokesperson Meredith Daniels said the agency “takes the theft of time very seriously and has taken the appropriate disciplinary actions for failure to follow established policy and procedures.”
“In addition, the Authority is seeking to recoup any monies paid to which the employee was not entitled,” Daniels added.
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