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Long IslandNassau

LIRR: Fake tickets not a growing problem

Lara Tepper, shown here in her Garden City

Lara Tepper, shown here in her Garden City lawyer's office, of Jericho is suing the Long Island Rail Road and MTA. (Aug. 13, 2009) Photo Credit: Joel Cairo

A day after a Jericho woman announced she is suing the Long Island Rail Road over her treatment after a conductor wrongly believed she was using a fake train ticket, LIRR officials said counterfeiting does not appear to be a growing problem for the agency.

According to MTA police, eight arrests have been made so far this year for counterfeit tickets. Last year there were six such arrests. In 2007 there were seven, and in 2006 there were eight.

LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone said there is "no evident trend" of forged tickets, but he said the LIRR and MTA police remain diligent, especially as computer desktop graphics and printing technology have advanced.

"It's something that we have to be mindful of," Calderone said Friday.

Counterfeiting of public transportation fare can be charged as second-degree forgery - a felony punishable by a maximum of 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison, according to state law.

Violating LIRR rules also is punishable by a fine of up to $50 and/or up to 30 days in jail, according to the LIRR's published rules and regulations.

Lara Tepper, 25, and her attorney held a news conference Friday to discuss the lawsuit they filed against the LIRR, accusing the agency of assault, false arrest and civil rights violations over an Aug. 5 incident.

Tepper said she was riding a train from Hicksville to Penn Station when a conductor accused her of using a fake ticket.

"All of a sudden I was surrounded by like 14, 15 cops," Tepper said of her arrival at Penn Station. MTA police have said she was met by two officers and a sergeant.

She said she was detained for more than three hours and placed in a holding cell in Penn Station before police determined that her ticket was authentic, but printed on a paper stock that no longer was used.

LIRR officials have apologized for the incident and said they will remind employees about how to recognize valid ticket stock.

LIRR spokesman Sam Zambuto said Friday employees are taught how to identify authentic tickets during training to become assistant conductors.

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