Arrest Made of Muni Mechanic in Late-Night Transfer Racket

late_night_transfer_small.jpgLate night transfer tickets. Photo cbcastro.
The San Francisco Police Department has arrested two men allegedly involved in the theft and fraudulent selling of Muni late-night transfer tickets, a practice that deprives the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni, of thousands of dollars a week.

What's worse, one of the men arrested is a Muni mechanic. Edmund King, a San Francisco resident and Muni employee, was charged with possession of stolen property and conspiracy, both of which are felonies. The other man arrested, Leroy Gutierrez, was charged with conspiracy and possession of stolen property, as well as two other misdemeanor theft charges and misdemeanor possession of a concealed knife.

Late night transfer tickets are valuable because they don't expire after two hours, like normal transfers. They are given out on surface stops after 8:30 pm and are valid until 5 am the next day.

The sting that nabbed the two men was conducted by the Muni Task Force, a special unit of the SFPD under Deputy Chief John Murphy that operates throughout the Muni system to deter crime. Some of the task force are in uniform, while others operate in plain clothes. The arrests occurred at 16th and Mission Streets, one of the areas of higher incidents of crime related to Muni, according to police data.

"It's a big deal because this has been going on for years," said SFPD Spokesperson Sgt. Troy Dangerfield in reference to selling late-night passes. Dangerfield also said the stings would continue and they hoped to greatly deter the practice. 

Dangerfield, who previously worked Muni enforcement himself, said it was routine to hear people at 16th and Mission and other areas saying, "late night, late night" when trying to sell the transfers.

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose acknowledged the problem is not new. "It's an ongoing issue that we're trying to get our hands around. When an instance like this happens, we do what we can to take immediate action."

Rose wouldn't give too many details about an ongoing investigation, but said, "We're investigating it to see exactly how this happens. We'll use the findings of that investigation to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Rose said they are recommending King be discharged pending a civil service hearing. In the meantime, "if he does show up to work, he'll be asked to leave," said Rose.

According to the SFPD, this particular operation started in March 2010, when the SFMTA requested help from the SFPD to deter the practice. After surveilling several hot spots for months and investigating the suspects, officers made the arrests on July 15th.

Despite the arrest of a Muni employee, Dangerfield was quick to defend the agency. "Muni has good employees, so you shouldn't paint it otherwise," he said. "This is a bad employee, that's all."

UPDATED 12:45 pm.