A Beverly man and an Attleboro woman have been arraigned for their alleged roles in selling and distributing millions of dollars worth of illegal MBTA monthly passes directly to riders, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.
Alex Saunders, age 28, and Joceline Townes, age 41, were arraigned today in Essex Superior Court, each on one count of Receiving Stolen Property over $250, and each on one count of Conspiracy to Commit Receiving Stolen Property. Saunders and Townes each entered pleas of not guilty and were released on personal recognizance.
Authorities allege that at various times starting in November 2007, Saunders and Joceline Townes each individually entered into an agreement with Andres Townes, an employee of an MBTA subcontractor, to sell MBTA tickets that he provided. Andres Townes was indicted on July 28 2011, on charges of Larceny over $250, Conspiracy to Commit Larceny over $250, and Making False Entries in Corporate Books in connection with his alleged role to illegally produce and sell the MBTA passes. Andres Townes was also indicted on November 16, 2011, on charges of Conspiracy to Commit Receiving Stolen Property (3 counts). According to authorities, the defendants agreed to share the profits of the illegal ticket sales with Andres Townes.
A Statewide Grand Jury returned indictments against Saunders and Joceline Townes on November 16, 2011. Saunders and Joceline Townes were arraigned today in Essex Superior Court where each pleaded not guilty and were released personal recognizance. The defendants will be in court on February 24, 2012 for pre-trial conference. Judge John T. Lu presided over the arraignment. A third defendant in this case, Susan Gillis, 46, of Foxboro, who was also indicted on November 16 on charges of Receiving Stolen Property over $250 (5 counts) and Conspiracy to Commit Receiving Stolen Property (1 count), is due in Essex Superior Court for arraignment on January 26, 2012. Andres Townes remains held on $15,000 cash bail.
The Attorney General’s Office began an investigation into the production and sale of illegal MBTA passes in March 2011, after an alert conductor noticed a pass that appeared different in color purportedly purchased by a rider on Craigslist. Further investigation showed that, while the ticket was authentic, the MBTA database had no record of it being activated and the MBTA had not received payment for it. The MBTA then discovered that more than 400 of these fraudulent passes, worth more than $70,000, were being used by passengers in March of 2011 alone.
According to authorities, the defendants advertised the illegal tickets on Craigslist and sold them either in person or through the mail to MBTA riders. The stolen tickets, valued up to $250 each, were allegedly sold by the defendants at a discounted rate with no revenue going back to the MBTA. As a result of this scheme, the defendants allegedly paid Andres Townes thousands of dollars each month based on their individual ticket sales.
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”), an independent vendor which handles the sale and fulfillment of MBTA passes purchased on-line and over the telephone. According to authorities, as an employee of Cubic, Andres Townes manipulated the machine to produce authentic MBTA passes that were not recorded by the MBTA’s central computer system as having been activated and were later sold by the defendants for profit.
Prosecutors allege that Andres Townes produced more than 20,000 fraudulent passes worth millions of dollars. Some of the passes produced were dated and activated for use as far in the future as November 2012.
Consumers should be aware that the MBTA does not sell passes through Craigslist, private individuals or at a discounted rate. The MBTA also does not sell passes for use in future months. If passengers hold a pass purchased this way, they may hold a pass that was fraudulently produced. Passengers who are concerned that they may have a fraudulent pass should contact the MBTA Transit Police at 617-222-1160.
The investigation was initially conducted by the MBTA and MBTA Transit Police. It was then referred to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. Due to Cubic’s location in Essex County, the investigation was brought to the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division.
Assistant Attorney General Gina Masotta is prosecuting this case along with AAG Jim O’Brien, Chief of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division, and AAG Edward Beagan, Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity Division. This case was investigated by MBTA detectives, personnel in the MBTA’s Automated Fare Collection Department, state police assigned to the Attorney General’s Office, and financial investigator Taylor Glynn and Deputy Director Sallyann Nelligan of AG Coakley’s Financial Investigation Division under the supervision of Division Director Paul Stewart.