Cuyahoga County

Indictments target abuse of RTA Paratransit services

1/28/2016

Cleveland – A Cuyahoga County Grand Jury has indicted three individuals on charges that they fraudulently used public transportation designed to serve individuals with disabilities to instead provide rides for themselves, friends and family members, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty announced today.

Pamela G. Mason, 61, of Euclid was charged with one count each of Theft in Office, Tampering with Records and Identity Fraud. She is a former RTA Paratransit dispatcher who retired last year, after the investigation into this case began.

Linda Williams, 64, of Cleveland, was charged with two counts of Identity Fraud and one count of Theft. She is a former RTA employee who now works for a company that contracts with RTA to provide Paratransit rides.

Trina Thompson, 48, of Cleveland, was charged with one count of Theft in Office. She was suspended today from her job as an RTA Paratransit dispatcher.

Paratransit service is a federally subsidized program that provides public transportation to the elderly and disabled.  Evidence gathered by investigators shows that Mason, Williams, and Thompson extensively abused the service for personal use and for use by family members, including trips to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Cavs, Indians and Browns games, political events, personal errands, and transportation to and from work and school.

“By using government-paid drivers and vehicles for their own benefit, they stole those services from the elderly and disabled,” said Prosecutor McGinty.

Investigators found evidence that the scam involved hundreds of rides dating back to 2008.

Evidence also shows that these defendants’ personal use of the Paratransit service prevented some disabled riders from being able to use the service.

 Mason is accused of arranging for the bulk of the fraudulent rides, and evidence shows that she did so by dispatching rides as “unknown” riders or fraudulently setting up the rides under the name of a deceased veteran. The veteran had used the Paratransit service before his death and had been cared for by Williams.  Mason was a personal friend of Williams, and evidence shows that Williams took many of the paratransit rides under the name of the deceased veteran.

 The investigation that led to today’s indictments began almost a year ago after a routine RTA audit identified issues regarding the dispatch and use of Paratransit services. RTA immediately launched an internal inquiry and in March of 2015 turned the matter over to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. Follow-up investigation was done by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General and by the Cleveland office of the FBI.

“We also took immediate action to stop the improper use of Paratransit services, and to identify those involved and to put measures in place to best assure that his never happens again,” said RTA Chief Executive Officer Joe Calabrese. “We have been cooperating throughout in the investigation, and we were careful not to take any actions that could have jeopardized the process or the outcome.”

According to RTA, Paratransit services are provided to individuals who have been certified as ADA-eligible due to a physical or cognitive disability that prevents them from using RTA’s regular buses and trains.

Contact: Joseph Frolik, Director of Communications and Public Policy. Phone: 216.443.7488 or Email: jfrolik@prosecutor.cuyahogacounty.us