It seems that the desire in some people to scam and to scheme displays itself all to often. The latest illustration of this on a grand scale in Massachusetts started when a conductor on a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter train happened to notice that an MBTA pass appeared to have a different color than usual. The rider admitted that he bought it on Craig’s List. That was enough to fuel suspicions, and proved to be the tip of the iceberg, in which three people have already been charged with a series of crimes that include Massachusetts larceny over $250; Massachusetts conspiracy to commit larceny; making false entries in corporate books; and conspiracy to commit receiving stolen property.
So far, this incident seems to be the biggest fare-evasion scheme in MBTA history. The three defendants who have been charged so far have all pled guilty. They are accused of being part of an elaborate scam in which millions of dollars in illegal monthly passes were sold to riders on Craigslist. Defendants in criminal cases sometimes choose to plead guilty instead of electing a trial, which they are entitled to, when the evidence that the Commonwealth (prosecution) has against them is so strong, that agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence, is the legally and strategically preferred option.
The toughest sentence of these three went to Andres Townes, the alleged ringleader who was arrested in May 2011. Mr. Townes was accused of printing in excess of 20,000 MBTA passes at a Beverly, Mass., facility, while he was working as an MBTA sub-contractor. Mr. Townes admitted to printing $4 Million worth of phony passes. He was sentenced to three years in state prison.
As a Norfolk County larceny lawyer, I can assure my readers that the courts take large-scale fraud schemes like this very seriously. The statute governing theft crimes is structured to provide different penalties depending on the amount of the fraud or larceny involved in the charges. Larceny of property valued under $250 constitutes a misdemeanor offense and is punishable by a sentence up to one year in a county jail. However, the crime of larceny of property worth more than $250 is a felony and can be punishable by a sentence of up to five years in state prison.
Charges are pending against two more individuals, and although they are considered innocent until proven guilty, they too may be charged with a variety of Massachusetts theft crimes.