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Former MBTA subcontractor, 3 others indicted in alleged pass fraud scheme

Three additional suspects were indicted yesterday in connection with an alleged plot to sell at least $4 million worth of illegal Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority passes, in a case that authorities say is the largest fare-evasion scheme in the agency’s history.

Andres Townes, 27, of Revere, a former MBTA subcontractor, was arrested in May and charged with conspiracy and larceny violations as part of the alleged scheme.

He was accused of printing more than 20,000 MBTA passes at a facility in Beverly, beginning in 2007, and advertising them on Craigslist.

Yesterday, a statewide grand jury returned indictments against Townes and three others accused of helping him sell the passes, according to a statement from the office of Attorney General Martha Coakley.


The statement identified the additional suspects as Susan Gillis, 46, of Foxborough; Alex Saunders, 28, of Beverly; and Townes’s sister, Joceline Townes, 41, of Attleboro.

They were each charged with participating in the illegal distribution of the passes. Coakley’s spokesman, Brad Puffer, declined to provide details about their alleged roles yesterday.

An arraignment date for the suspects, including Andres Townes, on the new conspiracy charges in Essex Superior Court had not been set yesterday.

Townes and another defendant, Gloria Escobar, 27, pleaded not guilty at arraignment in May to charges of larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny.

Lawyers for Townes and Escobar declined to comment yesterday. Lawyers for the other defendants could not be reached.

Authorities say that Townes printed the passes on a machine in Beverly owned by the MBTA and used by the Cubic Transportation Systems Inc., of San Diego, where Townes worked.

He allegedly plotted with the other defendants to sell them to riders in person or through the mail at a discount, Coakley’s office said.


Puffer declined to say yesterday whether more indictments are possible in the case.

Prosecutors said during the May arraignment that Townes named several coconspirators after his arrest. They also said Townes and Escobar spent money earned from the scheme on houses, jewelry, cars, and vacations.

Prosecutors have also alleged that Townes admitted printing $4 million worth of passes, but some of them had not been sold at the time of his arrest.

Authorities said the alleged fraud was uncovered in March after a conductor on a commuter train noticed a pass that appeared to be colored differently and that the rider admitted buying it through Craigslist.

Authorities later found that the pass was authentic but never activated by the MBTA, which received no revenue from the sale, Coakley’s office said.

Joe Pesaturo, MBTA spokesman, said in an e-mail that “the MBTA is making significant progress in its negotiations with Cubic to recover revenue lost as a result of their employee’s alleged scheme.’’

He said the T has also seized Andres Townes’s former properties in Revere and Lawrence and that the contract with Cubic was terminated immediately after Townes’s May arrest.

Pesaturo said that while some Cubic workers still answer phones and take orders in their Beverly offices, which is allowed under a clause of the old contract until a new company is hired, the vendor has no access to ticket-producing equipment or revenue.

“All of the ticket encoding operations were taken out of Cubic’s offices in Beverly, and moved to an MBTA facility in Boston,’’ Pesaturo said. “The work is handled by MBTA personnel under significantly enhanced security measures.’’


Cubic spokeswoman Jan Stevens said in an e-mail that the company acquired the contract in August 2009 as part of an acquisition from the prior vendor, which Townes worked for.

Stevens said he was hired as part of the acquisition and fired on May 25. She made no further comment on the case.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.