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May 19, 2011

Supervisor at Beverly firm arrested in MBTA fare scam

BEVERLY — An employee at a Beverly company contracted to produce and distribute monthly MBTA transit passes has been arrested in a multimillion-dollar fraud that officials are calling the biggest fare-evasion scheme in the history of the MBTA.

Andres Townes, 27, of Revere is accused of printing upward of 20,000 fraudulent monthly T and commuter passes worth millions of dollars and then selling them on the Internet and pocketing the money. He will be arraigned this morning in Salem District Court. He faces charges of larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny, which carry possible combined penalties of seven years, six months in prison.

Townes was a fulfillment supervisor at Cubic Transportations Systems Inc., the company contracted by the MBTA to print, sell and handle customer service for all of the MBTA's monthly subway, commuter and bus passes sold over the phone and online. Cubic has held the MBTA contract since 2009, according to a company spokeswoman. The contract paid Cubic $2.3 million this fiscal year, which ends June 30, according to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

In response to the arrest, MBTA yesterday terminated its contract with Cubic and has moved the transit pass operations "in house for the time being to MBTA offices," Pesaturo said. In addition, the MBTA "has every intention" of recouping the lost money for the fraudulent fares, which is estimated in excess of $2 million, Pesaturo said.

"We have talked to (Cubic), and we expect to be made whole," he said.

Cubic Transportation Systems moved into its Beverly office in 2009, taking over the space from the company that had previously held the MBTA contract. The facility includes a call center to handle customer inquiries and a fulfillment center that produces and mails MTBA passes ordered online or over the phone. Townes was a supervisor in the fulfillment center, which allowed him access to the secure room that houses the machine used to produce the transit tickets. He allegedly manipulated the machine to produce authentic MBTA passes that worked at all T gates, but appeared in the MBTA database as never being activated. The authentic but fraudulent passes — some of which were valued up to $250 — were sold to passengers at a discounted rate, often through Craigslist, according to authorities. Townes allegedly sold the passes under the pseudonym "Rich Rohan" and pocketed all of the revenue from the illicit sales.

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