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Criminal charges filed against Luzerne County transit officials

Criminal charges have been filed against two high-ranking public officials in Northeastern Pennsylvania alleging that the pair purposely inflated the number of elderly riders on buses operated by the county. The indictment is somewhat unusual because it does not accuse the two county officials of operating their scheme for personal gain. Instead, the indictment alleges that the executive director and operations manager of the Luzerne County Transportation Authority inflated the number of senior riders on buses operated by the county to increase the amount of subsidies paid to the county for such riders by the State of Pennsylvania.

According to the indictment, the actions of the two officials resulted in overpayments by the State to the LCTA of $3.16 million. Under state law, riders over the age of 65 are permitted to ride mass transit buses without paying a fare, and counties are reimbursed for each senior rider with funds from the Pennsylvania state lottery. The grand jury concluded that the two officials increased the reported number of riders by 53 for every rider actually on a bus.

Even though the two officials are not charged with reaping any personal gain, a conviction on the fraud charges could subject each of them to significant criminal penalties, including fines and incarceration. Unlike violent crimes, such as murder or robbery, defending a charge of white collar crime can require defense counsel to obtain and review a large number of documents. In this case, for example, defense lawyers must review the daily reports of ridership prepared and submitted by individual drivers and documents reflecting how reimbursements to the county were calculated.

Source: citizensvoice.com, "Scandal shows need for regional transit," June 9, 2014

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