For Immediate Release - October 27, 2010

Former General Manager of Regional Transit Authority Arraigned in Connection with Stealing Large Amounts of Cash From Vault

SALEM - The former general manager of the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) was arraigned in connection with allegedly stealing large amounts of money collected in bus fares from the agency's money room, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office announced today.

John Whittaker, age 47, of Methuen was charged with Larceny over $250 (2 counts).

"We allege that Mr. Whittaker used his position of authority to steal money from the MVRTA over a period of several years," said AG Coakley. "Many of our public institutions are struggling to stay afloat in today's economy and our office will continue to investigate and aggressively prosecute these crimes to ensure that public funds are protected in the Commonwealth."

Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General's Office began an investigation of Whittaker's alleged activities after learning that a significant amount of money from bus fares the agency had collected was missing from weekly deposits over a period of several years. Whitaker was hired by the MVRTA in February 2007 as the general manager for their Haverhill location. The MVRTA operates several bus lines out of their headquarters in Haverhill. Bus operators collect fares using on-board collection systems that are emptied at the MVRTA offices at the end of each day into a vault in the money room. The bus fare is then counted and compared to the on-board collection system readouts and subsequently deposited. Authorities conducted video surveillance of the area and allege that during the time period in question Whittaker stole a significant amount of money from the vault in the agency's money room and used it for his own personal use.

Whittaker was arrested at his place of employment and arraigned in Haverhill District Court on June 15, 2010 at which time he entered a plea of not guilty and was ordered held on $5,000 cash bail.

An Essex County Grand Jury returned indictments against Whittaker on September 29, 2010. Today, Whittaker was arraigned in Essex Superior Court at which time he entered a plea of not guilty and was released on the $5,000 cash bail previously posted in Haverhill District Court. Whittaker is due back in Essex Superior Court on December 6, 2010 for a pre-trial conference. Essex Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley presided over the arraignment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Christopher Kelly and Marina Moriarty, both of Attorney General Coakley's Corruption and Fraud Division, and was investigated by financial investigator Marc Pulli and Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General's Office.