Riders urged to be on the lookout for bogus bus passes
An average of 34,000 to 35,000 adult bus passes are sold every month. At $60 each, the sale of just 500 counterfeits would cost the city $30,000.
"We're hoping that the public, once being made aware, will themselves guard against being part of a counterfeit or a fraud," Mayor Kirk Caldwell told reporters.
The fraudulent bus pass that was seized features a decal that matches the cut patterns of an already expired card. The only way a bus driver would be aware a pass is a fake is by closely scrutinizing the month that's listed on the top and bottom of a card.
"When the bus transit passenger boards the bus, they can put their finger over April (and) flash it to the driver. The driver sees June and lets them get on the bus," explained Transportation Services Director Michael Formby. "I think an average consumer would know that if it says April on the bottom, and June at the top, there's a problem."
Because of the sophistication required to produce the phony pass, Formby believes its production was done on a mass scale.
"To duplicate the existing cut pattern on the cards, it takes skill," said Formby. "So this is probably an operation that's done in many, many multiples intended to be distributed and sold in many numbers."
Anyone found using a bogus bus pass faces a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, city officials are focusing on capturing whoever is producing the fakes, not those who are using them.
"We're going to work very closely with Transportation Services, the bus office, Honolulu Police Department and the Prosecuting Attorney's Office to make sure that we develop an implemental program to get these folks who are doing this unlawful activity," said Corporation Counsel Donna Leong.
Oahu Transit Services, the agency that operates The Bus, said an average of 34,000 to 35,000 adult bus passes are sold every month. At $60 each, the sale of just 500 counterfeits would cost the city $30,000.
"The majority of our business is with the monthly bus passes, and with 221,000 riders a day, if this was to take off, it could be a significant cut in revenue," said Formby.
The last time counterfeit bus passes surfaced on Oahu was in May 2010. No one was arrested for producing the fakes, but bus drivers confiscated a total of 198 cards.
Formby said there was a report of someone trying to sell multiple bus passes at Aala Park in downtown Honolulu recently, but that person was not located by police. The mayor is urging anyone who comes across counterfeit passes to report it immediately.
"We are confiscating these if people have them on the bus. We're also asking people to call 911 if they see them being sold," said Caldwell.
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