For Immediate Release - June 15, 2012

Beverly Man Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to Jail in Connection with Selling Illegal MBTA Passes

BOSTON – A Beverly man has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year and a half in jail for his role in selling and distributing millions of dollars worth of illegal MBTA monthly passes directly to riders, Attorney General Martha Coakley and the MBTA announced today.

Alex Saunders, age 28, pleaded guilty this morning in Essex Superior Court to charges of Receiving Stolen Property Over $250 and Conspiracy to Commit Receiving Stolen Property.  After accepting his plea, Essex Superior Court Judge Howard Whitehead sentenced Saunders to 18 months in the House of Correction.

“This defendant was part of an elaborate fare evasion scheme that defrauded the MBTA and taxpayers out of millions of dollars,” said AG Coakley.  “We would like to thank the MBTA and the Massachusetts State Police for their assistance in detecting and investigating this scheme.”

The investigation began in March 2011 after an alert conductor on the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail (MBCR) noticed a pass that appeared different in color.  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.  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.

Andres Townes, an employee of Cubic, had access to the secure room that houses the machine used to produce MBTA tickets. Townes manipulated the machine, producing authentic MBTA passes that were not recorded by the MBTA’s central computer system as having been activated.  Gloria Escobar worked with Townes to sell these fraudulent passes to passengers at a discounted rate, often through Craigslist, with no revenue going back to the MBTA.  Alex Saunders, along with Joceline Townes, also entered into separate agreements with Andres Townes and agreed to share the profits of the illegal ticket sales with him.

Yesterday, Andres Townes, Gloria Escobar, and Joceline Townes all pleaded guilty in Essex Superior Court to charges related to the scheme.  Andres Townes was sentenced to three years to three years and one day in State Prison, with two years of probation to run concurrent with his sentence.  Gloria Escobar was sentenced to two years in the House of Correction, while Joceline Townes was sentenced to three months in the House of Correction.

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 sold by the defendants at a discounted rate with no revenue going back to the MBTA.  Andres Townes produced more than 20,000 fraudulent passes worth millions of dollars. 

A Statewide Grand Jury returned indictments against Alex Saunders on November 16, 2011.  He was arraigned in Essex Superior Court on January 9, 2012.  He pleaded guilty and was sentenced today in Essex Superior Court.

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 prosecuted 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, Director Sallyann Nelligan and financial investigator Taylor Glynn, both of AG Coakley’s Financial Investigation Division.  Examiners from AG Coakley’s Computer Forensics Laboratory also assisted in this case.

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