|Are You Sure You'll Get Your Pension?|
|Written by APB Staff|
But he never received them, and his battle for justice has lasted more than two decades, exposing a dangerous technicality that could lead to other New York state workers losing their benefits, as well.
"It's unlikely I'll ever get justice for what was done to me, but I want to warn others in the state system that they are at risk," said Capria, author of the book Betrayal (www.tonycapria.com).
"When I was finally granted my day in court in 1999, the judge ruled that all of the assertions I made in the case - including one that demonstrated my retirement form was altered by a state official after it was filed - were true.
Capria's story is the cautionary tale of how a government employee can get so wrapped up in the red tape of the system that they can actually lose retirement benefits even though they followed the rules.
His story began in 1985, when he was injured by an inmate who had been agitated by Capria's supervisor. Capria was thrown against the wall, but didn't feel the effects of the blow until later. "The incident set off a time bomb of pain inside my body that gradually worsened until I had to start taking days off from work," he said.
"When I tried to make an ‘injury in the line of duty' claim, so I could stay on the payroll, my captain denied my claim."
Previous to his job at the prison, Capria had led one of the local unions, and he believes his activism in exposing waste and corruption in the prison system was a sore point for his captain. What followed was a series of setbacks engineered primarily by his captain, that led to him being forced to retire in 1989 at one-third salary, far short of the full benefits he should have received because he was injured in the line of duty.
"Over the next few years, I filed suit to get reinstated," he added.
"I also sought a full investigation and learned how the captain and others sought to cover up the severity of my medical condition and altered my retirement application.
The only problem was that the process had taken so long that the statute of limitations on that fraud had expired.
"My story is a case study of how a guy who just wanted to do his job well, and perform his duties to the best of his ability, can still wind up losing because of a technicality," Capria said.
"My warning for every state employee everywhere is that all it took for me to lose my house, my benefits and my career was a single piece of paper and a calendar. Until we change the law on the statute of limitations and work for the protection of good workers, the very same thing is happening to others, and could happen to you."
Tony Capria has spent more than 15 years in law enforcement, starting as a policeman in Syracuse, New York. Later, he moved up to the job of investigator in the organized crime unit. After several years running his own business, Tony realized he missed law enforcement and returned to work as a guard at the Jamesville Penitentiary near Syracuse.