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Fake Public Transit Passes Cause Damage in the Millions

In Boston, an employee of an MBTA subcontractor has been arrested in connection with an alleged scheme to produce millions of dollars’ worth of fake MBTA monthly passes and sell them directly to riders.

Andres Townes, age 27, of Revere, MA, was arrested and charged with Larceny over $250 and Conspiracy to Commit Larceny over $250.

In Boston, an employee of an MBTA subcontractor has been arrested in connection with an alleged scheme to produce millions of dollars’ worth of fake MBTA monthly passes and sell them directly to riders.

Andres Townes, age 27, of Revere, MA, was arrested and charged with Larceny over $250 and Conspiracy to Commit Larceny over $250.

“We allege that this defendant developed and executed an extensive public corruption scheme to produce these fraudulent passes and sell them for his personal profit,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said. “His actions cost taxpayers and the MBTA potentially millions of dollars.”

How did Townes get caught? The investigation began in March after a conductor on the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail (MBCR) noticed a pass that appeared different in color. The passenger told the conductor the pass had gone through the laundry and said that he had purchased the pass on Craigslist. The conductor confiscated the pass and turned it over to the MBTA Transit Police. Further investigation showed that despite opening electronic gates, the printed serial number in the MBTA database did not show the card ever being activated. The MBTA soon discovered hundreds of similar passes in use by passengers.

These stolen monthly “ghost” passes were being used by passengers on all forms of MBTA transportation, including the commuter rail, subway, and buses. Investigators discovered that all the stolen passes had been activated in Beverly, Massachusetts by a machine owned by the MBTA and used by Cubic Transportation Systems, Inc. (“Cubic”). Cubic is an independent vendor which handles the sale and fulfillment of MBTA passes purchased on-line and over the telephone.

It comes as no surprise that Townes is an employee of Cubic. As a “Fulfillment Supervisor” at Cubic’s Beverly office, he had access to the machine used to produce MBTA tickets. Townes allegedly manipulated the machine to produce authentic but unauthorized MBTA passes. These monthly passes have a value of up to $250 each, depending on the highest “zone” to which the passenger travels. These fraudulent passes were allegedly sold to passengers at a discounted rate, often through Craigslist, with no revenue going back to the MBTA.

Townes is accused of selling fake passes as far back as November 2007. Prosecutors also allege that Townes produced more than 20,000 fraudulent passes worth millions of dollars and sold passes using the pseudonym “Rich Rohan.” At least two million dollars’ worth of those passes were never in service because the passes had been dated and activated for use as far in the future as November 2012.

In March 2011 alone, the MBTA traced the use of more than 400 of these fraudulent passes worth more than $70,000 that were used by passengers.

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