A Staten Island cab service has pleaded guilty to scamming the MTA by billing the agency for thousands of rides it never gave to disabled people, officials said Thursday.
Investigators found that Wadsworth Car Services had customers sign several vouchers at once and then added in fake dates and times later. In other cases, cabbies filled out bogus forms using their own names, charging the MTA for rides when they were driving themselves around.
“Riders may have to endure the costs necessary to fund the critically important paratransit program, but we cannot allow them to be further taxed and burdened by crooked operator rip-offs,” said MTA inspector general Barry Kluger, whose office brought the investigation to the Staten Island district attorney.
The MTA became suspicious of the fraud in 2009, officials said, when bills from Wadsworth suddenly doubled, even though the company didn’t add any extra cabs or drivers. Investigators also found that customers who were supposed to be taking up to 10 trips per day never left home, or were employees of the company. The MTA paid $23-27 for each ride.
The cash-strapped agency uses vans and sedans to pick up those who can’t use mass transit because of disabilities, but 20% of rides last year were done by car services because they are cheaper, according to the MTA.
A lawyer for Wadsworth, which has gone out of business, did not return a call for comment as of press time.
The MTA recouped more than $200,000 from the scam, including $30,000 it had already paid out in forged receipts.
“We’re glad to be receiving all of our money back,” said MTA spokeswoman Deirdre Parker.