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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Grand Jury Indicts Three Women Accused of using Cleveland's RTA Paratransit Service for Personal Rides

Three woman are accused of using the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's paratransit service to schedule hundreds of fraudulent rides since 2008, according to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office. Received in email for Becky Gaylord for use in a graphic. Credit: RTA/ Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority From: Jerry Masek, Publications Manager Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority 216-566-5173, office 216-210-5504, cell 216-781-4248, fax (File photo)
article by By Evan MacDonald for cleveland.com | January 28, 2016

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted three women accused of using public transportation for people with disabilities to schedule rides for themselves, friends and family members.

The three women used the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's paratransit service to schedule hundreds of fraudulent rides since 2008, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement. They used the service to run errands and for rides to the airport, sporting events, political events, work and school.

The fraudulent rides prevented some people with disabilities from using the service, the prosecutor said. The RTA denied that claim in a statement, and said no customers were affected.

"By using government-paid drivers and vehicles for their own benefit, they stole those services from the elderly and disabled," Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said.

Pamela G. Mason, 61, of Euclid, is charged with theft in office, tampering with evidence and records fraud. Mason is a former RTA paratransit dispatcher who retired last year.

Linda Williams, 64, is charged with theft and two counts of identify fraud. Williams is a former RTA employee who now works for a company that contracts with the RTA to provide paratransit rides.

Trina Thompson, 48, of Cleveland, is charged with theft in office. She was suspended Thursday from her job as an RTA paratransit dispatcher.

They will be arraigned Feb. 11 in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

Mason scheduled the majority of the fraudulent rides for "unknown" riders. She also used the name of a deceased veteran Williams cared for prior to his death, the prosecutor said. Williams took many of the rides scheduled under the deceased veteran's name.

The investigation began nearly a year ago after a routine audit identified issued. The RTA launched an internal investigator and notified the prosecutor's office in March.

The RTA took immediate action to stop the improper use of its paratransit service, and put measures in place to ensure the fraud isn't repeated, chief executive officer Joe Calabrese said in a statement.

Other employees found to have engaged in any irregularities will be subject to discipline and possibly termination, the RTA said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General and the Cleveland Division of the FBI conducted a follow-up investigation.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's paratransit service is a federally subsidized program that provides rides for disabled riders. Services are provided to people who are eligible under the Americans with Disabilities Act due to a physical or cognitive disability that prevents them from using regular buses and trains, according to the RTA.

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