EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

April 7, 2012

T awarded $2.7M in bogus pass fraud case

BEVERLY — Lawyers for three people charged with selling phony MBTA passes will meet with a judge later this month in an attempt to negotiate a plea in the case.

And it's not just prison that Andre Townes, who turned 28 yesterday, is potentially facing.

A Suffolk Superior Court judge last week found Townes and co-defendant Gloria Escobar, 27, liable for $2.7 million, the amount of money the T said it lost in revenue due to the scheme.

Townes, who lived with Escobar in Revere, was an employee of Cubic Transportation Systems, a Beverly firm that produced and activated commuter rail passes for the MBTA.

Prosecutors allege that Townes used his access to the company's equipment to print hundreds of extra passes, which he and his co-defendants then sold through ads on the Craigslist website.

The "T" and the attorney general estimate that the scheme cost the financially struggling agency millions in uncollected fares, which instead went into bank accounts held by Townes and Escobar.

Prosecutors have charged three others, including Alex Saunders, 27, of Beverly, Joceline Townes, 41, of Attleboro and Amal Susan Zakhary-Gillis, 46, with selling the passes.

During a separate civil proceeding in Suffolk County, the MBTA filed a civil suit against Townes and Escobar seeking to recoup that lost revenue. Neither Townes nor Escobar formally responded to the civil case, and the T moved for a $2.7 million default judgment plus interest.

Judge Bonnie MacLeod granted the request on March 30.

The home Townes and Escobar allegedly bought with the proceeds of the scheme has an attachment against it, and the T could now move for permission to take that property or any other assets to satisfy the judgment.

Meanwhile, attorneys for Townes, Escobar and Saunders asked yesterday to meet with a judge in a newly created "early disposition" session, where they'll try to work out a plea in the criminal case. That meeting is scheduled for April 18.

Townes remains held on bail in the case.

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