June 4, 2014
Top officials from the Luzerne County Transportation Authority arrested; "hit the button" directive allegedly given to pad fare boxes
HARRISBURG - Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today announced the arrest of the Luzerne County Transportation Authority (LCTA) executive director and the operations manager following an investigation into the submission of false ridership data to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).
Evidence and testimony regarding the alleged illegal activity was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the criminal charges being filed today.
According to the grand jury, Stanley Strelish, executive director of LCTA and Robb Henderson, LCTA operations manager, conspired to falsely inflate senior ridership data by directing drivers to depress the senior citizen rider button as many times as they want - a practice known as "hitting the button." Strelish allegedly certified the falsely inflated data as accurate, which PennDOT then used to award grants to the transportation authority.
"These officials manipulated a program designed to offer seniors free, public ridership," Attorney General Kane said. "In the process, they defrauded the Commonwealth of more than $3.1 million and created an environment of intimidation and angst in the workplace."
The grand jury found that Strelish and Henderson allegedly directed drivers to "hit the button" in order to inflate senior rider numbers by direct orders, through training and subtle pressure. Testimony revealed that Strelish directed drivers to "coach other drivers into padding the fare box," often threatening drivers that if senior ridership numbers were not high, there would be layoffs.
Agents said that the LCTA recorded dramatic increases in senior ridership after Strelish and Henderson assumed their positions, or 51 percent in the first two years. According to the grand jury, the greatest misreporting by a bus driver was 53 fares recorded for every actual passenger.
Stanley Strelish, 60, 17 Dogwood Drive, Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County is charged with seven counts of tampering with public records, seven counts of unsworn falsification to authorities, seven counts of false swearing, seven counts of obstructing administration of a government function, six counts of dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activity, six counts of theft by deception, six counts
of conspiracy to commit theft by deception and one count of attempted theft by deception.
Robb Henderson, 58, 230 Harland St., Exeter, Luzerne County is charged with seven counts of conspiracy to commit tampering with public records or information, seven counts of conspiracy to commit aiding the consummation of a crime, seven counts of conspiracy to commit the obstruction of law or other governmental function and six counts of conspiracy to commit dealing in the proceeds of illegal activity.
Both men were released on $25,000 unsecured bail.
The case will be prosecuted in Dauphin County by Senior Deputy Attorney General Bernard Anderson of the Office of Attorney General's Criminal Prosecutions Section.
Attorney General Kane thanked the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General for its assistance with the investigation.
(A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.)
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