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WRTA money stolen; Employee put on unpaid leave.

Byline: Scott J. Croteau

WORCESTER - A Paratransit Services Inc. employee has been put on unpaid leave after an audit discovered the theft of $45,300 from Professional Transit Management - the company that manages the Worcester Regional Transit Authority.

Several other company officials have been interviewed in connection with the theft uncovered on Aug. 15 by a routine audit of PTM and its subsidiaries. The cash was taken from the 317 Main St. customer service office where WRTA passes are sold. All the locks have since been changed and police are investigating.

"We've already conducted interviews with the auditor and we are making attempts to speak with that individual (the employee on administrative leave)," police spokesman Sgt. Kerry F. Hazelhurst said yesterday.

The audit found financial irregularities at the Main Street office, according to a news release issued yesterday by PTM.

The identity of the employee put on leave and the employee's connection to the office were not released yesterday. Besides changing the locks, PTM's information technology consultant was also contacted to "lock down information," the news release said.

Paratransit Services Inc., also referred to as PBSI, is the for-profit company that organizes travel for handicapped and elderly people in Central Massachusetts.

Worcester police spoke with a representative of the Worcester district attorney's office and an investigation has begun, headed by Detective Thomas P. Looney, the department's lead financial investigator.

Investigators and PTM are still determining the extent of the loss.

A complete audit will be conducted, but based on the preliminary audits, the company said, approximately $45,300 was taken from February to Aug. 15.

"This theft happened over an extended period of time, wherein current receipts were being deposited to cover prior shortfalls," said John Carney, general manager of RTA Transit Services Inc. and president of PBSI.

"This is a very unfortunate situation; our internal controls were not followed. We will seek additional guidance from our outside auditing firm and insurance company to determine if there is anything else we can do in order to eradicate theft, to the best of our abilities."

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Carney said his company made the theft public "basically because we use public funds and we want to be very proactive."

WRTA Administrator Stephen F. O'Neil said yesterday all but $5,000 of the money taken is covered under PTM's insurance.

"The $5,000 will be pursued by PTM through court," he said, either through criminal or civil actions.

Rider fares will not be raised because of the theft, Mr. O'Neil said. The investigation will not affect riders, he said.

"We wanted to come right out in the public and say we came out with it, we addressed it and we will make sure it doesn't happen again," he said.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Mr. Carney
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 22, 2008
Words:464
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