Two fired Metro employees pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to stealing $445,000 in cash from fare machines.
Horace Dexter McDade, 58, of Bowie, a revenue technician, and John Vincent Haile, 54, of Woodbridge, a Metro Transit Police officer, stole the money and hid it in a spot near the Capital Beltway. They would collect the bags of coins and bills when their shifts were done. According to court documents, Haile would use bags of stolen money to buy lottery tickets.
The two men were arrested in January. They appeared Monday before Judge Leonie M. Brinkema in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
McDade and Haile both agreed to waive indictment and plead guilty to two counts: theft concerning federal funds and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each faces up to 30 years in prison, potential fines of $750,000 and payment of restitution. Prosecutors said that they are still working with Metro to figure out how much money was stolen and that the figure could rise to $600,000.
Sentencing was set for June 15.
Prosecutors said the thefts had been underway since at least 2010.
The pair systematically worked stations on Metro’s rail lines in the District, Maryland, and Virginia, according to prosecutors. Investigators found that Haile would often switch his security assignment with other officers so he could work with McDade.
According to court records, surveillance teams observed McDade and Haile over three days in December and January. The two would ride through a hotel parking lot on Eisenhower Avenue to an overpass, unload bags of money from a van and hide the cash. Later, each man would return separately — Haile in a gray Jaguar, McDade in a green Ford — to retrieve the money, according to court records and those involved in the case. Investigators placed Global Positioning System tracking devices on their cars and the Metro van.
The underpass is about a quarter-mile from Metro’s revenue-collection facility and is in the opposite direction of Haile’s route home to Woodbridge, authorities said.
Court records described the pair’s “taking, hiding, retrieving, and ultimately stealing” Metro funds as a frequent pattern.
On the night they were arrested, Jan. 18, McDade and Haile took and hid four bags of money in the brush underneath the overpass in the hotel parking lot. They came back later that evening, and each took two bags. The men were arrested as they were driving away.
On a nearly nightly basis, court records said, Haile used stolen money to buy Virginia Lottery tickets, authorities said. Sometimes he would bring in bags containing $500 worth of stolen coins. Between October and December, he used more than $28,000 in coins and paper money to purchase tickets, according to court records.
And Haile won frequently. In 2011, he won 29 times, totaling $32,000, records show. He also won amounts under $600, but the Virginia Lottery doesn’t require retailers to document personal information for those lesser amounts.
Prosecutors said that Haile’s bank records show unexplained cash deposits of more than $150,000 since 2008.
McDade used his portion of the stolen Metro funds to make “numerous cash and coin purchases” at Home Depot and Lowe’s home improvement stories and to pay off account balances at Zale’s jewelers and Sprint, according to the statement of facts in the case.
Haile lied to law enforcement officers after his arrest, saying he did not possess any keys to Metro property, court records said. But he had keys on his key ring to machines that held cash and coins.
At the hearing, prosecutors said Metro kept “careful control” of the keys. Brinkema responded, “Couldn’t have been that carefully controlled.”
McDade had worked for Metro since 1979 and was assigned to service broken fare-box machines. Haile had served as a Metro Transit Police officer since 1997 and was responsible for providing security as money was transported to and from the revenue collection facility in Alexandria.
When asked by Brinkema at Monday’s hearing who came up with the idea for stealing the Metro money, McDade said, “Both of us.”
Weren’t you worried someone would steal it? Brinkema asked, referring to hiding the money under a bush near a hotel.
“Yes, your honor,” McDade said. “Sometimes that happened.”
Haile told the judge he was being treated for a gambling addiction.
After the hearing, U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride said the two were “caught red-handed” when they were arrested and with more than $8,000 stolen from Metro. He said that those stolen funds were the “tip of the iceberg” and that the men “ripped off the very Metro system they were sworn to protect.”
Peter Carr, spokesman for the U.S. District Court, said the two would be required to pay restitution after their release from prison.
The men’s defense attorneys — Steven Bullock and Robert Whitestone — declined to comment.
Dan Stessel, Metro’s chief spokesman, said McDade and Haile were fired in January.
The transit authority declined to comment on the plea deals, Stessel said. Metro’s inspector general and Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn are conducting investigations into Metro’s procedures, he said. According to Stessel, some Metro revenue collection procedures have already been changed, but he would not elaborate because the issue concerned internal security.
Metro also brought in auditing firm Deloitte to look “for ways to tighten up” processes at the agency’s revenue collection facility in Alexandria and “make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Stessel said.