This Moment in Corruption: Fare Collection Boxes Were T Employee's Piggy Bank

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

As a daily rider, I find myself drawn to the bad news emanating from the MBTA with morbid fascination.  There's nearly always something to be fascinated by.

Take the fare hikes that went into effect on July 1, which beaten-down commuters have been yipping about for weeks.  The heat is on every Boston politician to condemn the higher fares and the thinking that led to them.

Or take the scary shortfall in the taxpayer-subsidized T employees pension fund, which provides the unavailable-in-private-sector option of a very early retirement, with lifetime pensions.

The Boston Globe reported on June 29 that the fund is in "the danger zone" because, for the first time in at least three decades, it is less than 50% funded.  "At the close of last year," the Globe article said, "the MBTA Retirement Fund's liabilities climbed past $2.91 billion, more than double the $1.45 billion it reported in assets..."  The fund is under water.

Fact: In 2018, one in three MBTA retirees was younger than 55.

Not all the discouraging T news gets the attention it deserves.  If you have seen anything in the last few days, for example, about the former T employee who pleaded guilty to stealing more than $450,000 from fare collection boxes he was responsible for repairing, you haven't seen (or heard) much. 

One solitary employee-thief was closing in on half a mill in ill-gotten gains when someone finally suspected something funny and ran a sting to bring him down!

According to a press release from the office of MA Attorney General Maura Healey, Stephen P. Fagerberg, age 54, of Dedham, pleaded guilty in Suffolk Superior Court on June 28 to two counts of Larceny Over $1,200 in a Continuous Scheme. 

Judge Linda Giles sentenced Fagerberg to a two-year split sentence, with six months to serve in prison and the balance suspended for two years.  Fagerberg will also have to serve two years of probation on conditions that include his paying $458,694 in restitution and forfeiting all contributions he made to the MBTA Retirement Fund.

As an automated fare technician, Fagerberg repaired fare collection boxes on T buses parked in South Boston.  Healey's office began investigating him in April, 2018.

"Following an undercover operation that included planting marked bills in fare collection boxes that Fagerberg services," the press release said, "authorities found that the defendant deposited the marked bills into his personal bank account via a drive-up ATM."

Fagerberg was indicted in September, 2018.

Let's hope he makes good on the commitment to full restitution.

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