Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Metro employees allegedly steal as much as $150,000 in riders' fares

January 19, 2012 - 10:41 AM
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(Photo: Jay Westcott)

Oh Jesus, of course this would happen.

"HORACE DEXTER McDADE and JOHN VINCENT HAILE have conspired to steal funds — and indeed, have successfully stolen thousands of dollars — from their employer, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority," reads the Eastern District Court affidavit issued by Metro Transit Police Captain Kevin Gaddis yesterday. The crime — "conspiracy to commit theft concerning programs receiving federal funds." Today  United States Attorney Neil H. MacBride is trumpeting the case, which appears to have involved the coordination of MacBride, the FBI, Alexandria police, the Virginia Lottery, and Metro Transit Police to nail the two men, reported to be a Metro revenue technician and transit police officer.

What's especially sad is that both men have worked for WMATA for years, 58-year-old technician McDade since 1979 and 54-year-old transit cop Haile since '97. Is there no loyalty? No consideration of the greater crime against the riders they also serve? I find that transgression, after so many years of service, amazing and hard to stomach.

Also wild to consider is the logistical nightmare of stealing thousands of dollars in coins. I'll grant these alleged thieves one thing. They are committed to the theft. That's a lot of canvass bags full of coins, and they must have been awfully heavy.

The two men worked as a team to collect money from the Metro fare machines and seem to have done so when coordinating the mysterious, fascinating "money trains" that Metro runs throughout the system. These zero-passenger trains come armed with security, like our transit cop in question, to safely transport the system's vast sums of money. Local transit enthusiast Ben Schumin captured video of a Money Train passing through Foggy Bottom, shown below. The WMATA Revenue Facility handles all the collected money in the end — or at least it should.

So much effort goes into protecting this money. It's a shame that WMATA truly needed to protect the money not from others but from themselves.

The alleged theft began at least as early as 2010, according to the affidavit, and continued to the present. WMATA has immediately fired back with their own press release to assure riders the agency is dealing with the two individuals and says the investigation began last fall. As I read through the affidavit, the crime seems comically old-school. The tale involves bags of coins hidden under an underpass, even. Apparently Metro Transit Police noticed McDade and Haile leaving these coin bags beneath such an underpass around a Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia on Jan. 3, 2012. GPS and video surveillance also captured the incident, and suggest this happened many times. Talk about a red flag, no? The two men apparently had a habit of retrieving the hidden money hours later, once their shifts ended.

The initial numbers are alarming. A "confidential human source" says that Haile suffered from a gambling problem and stole more than $28,000 between last October and December, in large part to pay for lottery tickets. Total unexplained bank deposits over the last three+ years — $150,000. The FBI first heard of his excessive lottery purchases last September. Wearing his police uniform, Haile would drive his Jaguar to Woodbridge and buy "several hundred dollars worth of scratcher-type Virginia Lottery tickets with $1 coins." Even Dostoevsky couldn't have dreamed of a gambler with this much dedication.

WMATA has already doled punishment out after the arrests. "Officer Haile has been suspended without pay and is in the process of being terminated. Technician McDade also has been suspended," WMATA announced this morning. "The Chief Financial Officer will immediately bring in forensic accountants to conduct a thorough review of control systems and management over revenue systems to fully understand how wrongdoing occurred and to implement tighter detection systems. The review will take place concurrently with ongoing efforts of the Office of Inspector General. The supervisor responsible for the revenue facility has been relieved of his duties." The Transit Police will also review policies.

I can already imagine the outcry that'll happen throughout the rest of the week. "This is why our fares are going up?" I imagine riders asking. It's a fair reaction given all the recent fare frustration, and I as well as all the organizations involved would loudly agree that these alleged actions are unacceptable. But I'm glad at the outcome announced today. I'm glad Metro Transit Police and others saw the red flags in revenue collection and pursued the case, that they saw these transgressions and recorded them, and that today they can announce arrests.

But does this resolution really make it all better? Will WMATA really recover the thousands of dollars lost? I look forward to knowing the final tally of funds lost thanks to the actions of these two employees. The fact that these alleged crimes could and did happen at all is disappointing.

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