Ex-Supervisor Pleads Guilty In Thefts of Transit Proceeds

Marcia Anderson hides her face as she leaves U.S. District Court, where she pleaded guilty to wire fraud.
Marcia Anderson hides her face as she leaves U.S. District Court, where she pleaded guilty to wire fraud. (By Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)
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By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 24, 2008

Marcia Anderson was paid $49,000 a year as a supervisor for Metro. But the money she used to buy two homes, a BMW and vacations came from more than $560,000 she stole from the transit agency, prosecutors said.

Anderson, 46, no longer is helping herself to the proceeds from the sale of Metro Farecards, passes and bus tokens. She appeared in U.S. District Court in the District yesterday and pleaded guilty to a charge of wire fraud that could net her up to 41 months in prison. Officials said she single-handedly carried out the largest theft in Metro's history.

Prosecutors said Anderson stole the money between 2002 and October, when she was fired after an investigation turned up the thefts. They said she typically stole $2,000 at a time while handling money generated by three Metro sales offices in the District: two bus garages and the sales office at Metro Center. She oversaw the work of up to 15 transit clerks.

The stolen money helped Anderson buy homes in the District and Silver Spring, as well as a $37,000 BMW and a Nissan Pathfinder, prosecutors said. She also paid off credit cards bills, which she ran up paying for vacations, at least three computers and home furnishings, authorities said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony M. Alexis said in court that Anderson tried to hide her activities by depositing the money in 11 bank accounts. She sometimes wrote checks or money orders to family members and relatives and then forged their names to collect the cash, he said.

Anderson said little at a hearing before Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly yesterday, agreeing with the prosecution's recap of events but offering no additional details. The judge permitted her to remain free pending sentencing Aug. 8.

Anderson and her attorney, Billy Ponds, later declined to comment.

She agreed to pay restitution as part of her plea agreement. She also promised to help authorities identify her assets to help recover the losses.

At the time of her arrest in October, authorities seized about $3,500 in cash, $2,000 worth of money orders, a SunTrust bank account with about $21,000, a laptop computer and Anderson's two cars.

Authorities said Anderson, who started working at Metro in 1998, devised a systematic, low-tech system for her thievery. After the transit clerks went home, she pocketed a share of the money and, to cover up the loss, replaced the cash with the same amount of expired or canceled Metrocheks, electronic coded cards, provided by some employers, that can be used to buy Metro passes, Farecards and other items. There was no marking on the canceled Metrocheks, so they looked like they could be used like cash, for payment.

Anderson then altered her clerks' daily balance sheets. She also forged their signatures on daily reports faxed to a Metro treasury office in Alexandria. As a result, the thefts were not apparent.

As time passed, Anderson took more and more money, prosecutors said. In 2004 she deposited an extra $6,000 a month into her accounts, in 2005 she was setting aside up to $8,000 a month, and in 2006 and 2007 she deposited about $12,000 a month.

The scam unraveled when a clerk noticed that Anderson was logging onto the employee's computer and changing balance sheets. The subordinate reported Anderson, and the investigation began.

Metro officials now clearly mark canceled Metrocheks as "used" or "void."

Lisa Farbstein, a Metro spokeswoman, said she was pleased that the case came to light and that restitution is in the works.

"We have 10,000 employees," Farbstein said. "This is one bad apple."

Staff writer Lena H. Sun and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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