Medford Man Arrested for Allegedly Making and Selling Fake MBTA Passes

The scheme cost the T $200,000 in revenue, authorities said.

Photo by Alex Lau

Photo by Alex Lau

Authorities from the Attorney General’s office claim a counterfeit MBTA ticket scheme cost the transit agency roughly $200,000 in lost revenue after a Medford man allegedly manufactured and sold the fake tickets to customers.

Casey Kolenda, 27, is scheduled for arraignment in Somerville District Court on Tuesday, charged with five counts of counterfeiting with value over $10,000, after a joint investigation by MBTA Transit Police detectives, State Police assigned to the AG’s office, and financial investigators revealed the suspect was making the passes in his home and then distributing them to riders to make a profit.

“We allege that this defendant orchestrated a scheme to manufacture and distribute counterfeit MBTA passes for his own personal gain while defrauding the Commonwealth of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a statement.

While the investigation into just how much Kolenda earned from allegedly selling the passes remains ongoing, Coakley’s office said the suspect was making counterfeit $70 monthly MBTA “Links Passes,” which give customers access to both subway trains and buses, between October 2013 and March 2014. He did this by copying the electronic data stored on the magnetic strips of the Link Passes using a reader known as a “skimmer.” That data was then downloaded onto the magnetic strips of hundreds of MBTA stored-value cards that Kolenda bought at various T kiosks. Officials said to help disguise the forged passes, Kolenda used contact paper to transfer over the production date of the passes, as well as the transit agency’s logo. According to investigators, Kolenda then distributed hundreds of the passes, which were used sometimes more than 15,000 times in one month.

Transit Police detectives worked closely with State Police investigators and the AG’s office to arrest and charge Kolenda. “Our honest, fare-paying customers deserve and expect our full attention to this type of illegal activity. Let this serve as a warning to anybody else who thinks they can perpetrate such fraud,” said MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan.

MBTA Spokesman Joe Pesaturo said every transaction at an MBTA farebox, gate, and fare vending machine is recorded to a central database that Transit Police and authorized MBTA personnel can use to identify suspicious activity and ultimately block fraudulent use, which is what they did for the counterfeit tickets identified as part of this particular investigation. “The MBTA has the capability to block the use of any CharlieTicket at any moment,” Pesaturo said.

According to T officials, CharlieTickets have been in use since 2005—less than 25 percent of MBTA customers use them—and this is the only counterfeiting case since they went into production. “But out of an abundance of caution, the MBTA will increase its monitoring of transactions at fare gates and fare boxes,” Pesaturo said, adding that a revenue analyst in the MBTA Treasurer’s office will conduct regular checks to look for any unusual trends or patterns. The analyst will also meet monthly with the MBTA’s Chief Technology Officer and Chief Financial Officer to make sure their are no more fraudulent transactions or activity.

In 2011, the MBTA dealt with a similar situation, which was called the “ghost pass” scam and cost the T millions of dollars in revenue. Authorities billed it as the “the largest fare-evasion case in T history,” which led to the arrest of Andres Townes, of Revere.

The scheme came to the end thanks to the eagle-eye of a train conductor on the Providence/Stoughton Line in May of that year. The conductor spotted a discoloration in the fake pass, and reported it to the Transit Police. The investigation led them to Townes.