Former Baltimore MTA Employee Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison for Stealing $400,000 from Bus Fare Boxes

Used Stolen Money to Finance a Second Home and a Second Car,
and for Car Repairs and Merchandise

March 31, 2010

Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz sentenced David Mark Pattawi, age 36, of White Marsh, Maryland, today to two years in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for theft of $400,000 from the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). Judge Motz also entered restitution and forfeiture orders against Pattawi, each for $400,000, the amount of the loss.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Postal Inspector in Charge Daniel S. Cortez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division; Colonel John E. Gavrilis, Chief of the Maryland Transit Police; MTA Administrator Ralign T. Wells; and Colonel Terrence Sheridan, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

“The MTA Police worked in a collaborative effort with its law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring this case to a successful prosecution,” said MTA Chief of Police, Colonel John E. Gavrilis.

“This investigation exemplifies the determination of postal inspectors to protect, not just the mail, but other postal services like postal money orders, from misuse by criminals,” stated Postal Inspector in Charge Daniel S. Cortez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division.

According to Pattawi’s plea agreement, he was employed by the MTA from November 2, 2001 to March 12, 2008, and worked in the fare box maintenance division located at 1515 Washington Boulevard in Baltimore. He repaired the fare boxes on transit buses and worked on the computerized fare box collection system that was installed beginning in November 2004.

The fare box is a self-contained system into which the bus rider directly deposits cash. Neither the bus driver nor the employee who removes the cash box at the end of the bus route is involved in collecting money or has access to the contents of the cash boxes. When the manufacturer began installing the fare box system, it provided MTA with portable electronic keys designed to allow repairmen to access the fare box to make repairs. The fare box computer notes the date and time of each occasion when the electronic key is used.

At the end of January, 2006, Pattawi transferred from fare box maintenance to radio communications and began working unsupervised on the 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. shift.

From at least January 2007 through March 2008, Pattawi entered buses parked at the Bush Street and Eastern Avenue depots. Using an electronic key, he opened and took the cash contained in the fare boxes. From November 2007 to March 13, 2008, MTA Police, assisted by the Maryland State Police, surveilled both depots and saw Pattawi or his vehicle in the area on nine occasions. On each occasion, computer data showed that fare boxes had been accessed by a portable electronic key. On January 20, 2008, MTA officers observed Pattawi walking away from a bus. The officers noted that the red fare box light was on, indicating that it had been accessed. An MTA Treasury official arrived and determined from the fare box computer that the box should contain $642.83. The box was empty, however, except for a few one dollar bills.

On March 12, 2008, MTA Police and Maryland State Police officers searched Pattawi’s residence in White Marsh, another house that he owned in Baltimore City and his automobile. They seized an electronic key, the existence of which the MTA was unaware. Law enforcement also seized coin counters, currency counters, boxes of paper coin wrappers, $8,000 in U.S. Postal money orders that were purchased with cash, $9,053 in cash and a bullet key. A bullet key is a device that fits onto a slot on the cash box. By inserting the bullet key into the cash box, the lid opens and the money in the container becomes accessible.

An analysis by a U.S. Postal Inspector revealed that Pattawi had access to large amounts of cash and relied heavily on cash-based transactions. From January 2007 to March 2008, the inspector found that Pattawi had purchased over $48,000 in money orders with cash. Pattawi used $12,200 in money orders to buy a Lincoln Navigator and spent $8,683 in cash for service and maintenance for his Land Rover. Pattawi also bought consumer items from stores in cash, then canceled the purchases and was reimbursed with checks from the stores.

Pattawi’s MTA salary of $60,174 was electronically deposited into his bank account from January 2007 through March 2008. During 2007, Pattawi made 13 additional cash deposits, ranging from $1,100 to $7,200, for a total of $47,487, to three separate bank accounts.

On February 15, 2008 Pattawi purchased a new home for $486,447. Pattawi paid over $23,000 down as earnest money and paid $96,818 at settlement. In his loan application, Pattawi reported a monthly gross salary from MTA of $5,946 and $100,000 in liquid funds in savings and investment accounts.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorney Stephen M. Schenning, who prosecuted the case.



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