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Amtrak conductor pleads guilty

 


A second assistant conductor has admitted to stealing money from Amtrak ticket sales.

Miriam Reed, 42, of Shelby pleaded guilty Tuesday to taking more than $41,000 in passenger fares during a five-year period of employment as an assistant conductor on Amtrak's Empire Builder route from 1997 to 2002. Reed appeared in U.S. District Court in Great Falls.

According to a criminal complaint, Reed, who worked out of Amtrak's Shelby station, admitted to a supervisor last March that she had been selling tickets and keeping the cash.

The complaint said one of Reed's duties was to sell tickets to passengers who board Amtrak without prepaid tickets. Reed was issued a booklet of Amtrak tickets from which she provided passengers with tickets in exchange for payment of the required fare. Amtrak procedures require the conductor to remit all sales information at the conductor's final destination or within 48 hours of the conclusion of the trip.

In October of 2001, an Amtrak consultant conducting a spot check reviewed the tickets Reed had been issued and compared those records with the fares remitted to Amtrak by Reed. The consultant determined that Reed had been issued 363 tickets that had not been remitted to Amtrak, the complaint said.

Sometime in late February or early March of 2002, Reed's supervisor conducted a "mini-audit," which consisted of examining the ticket book that Reed had with her at the time, and asked her if her other paperwork was in order. She told him that it was.

Just a few days later, on March 4, the complaint said, Reed came to the Shelby Amtrak station and turned in some tickets that she had sold to passengers but had not remitted to Amtrak and said she had kept the money from the tickets.

During an interview with officials, Reed admitted to the thefts, the complaint said. She said that when she moved to Shelby in 1997 she was in dire need of money. When she first began taking money it was her intent to replenish the stolen funds when she got paid, but the situation snowballed and she was not able to make the repayment, she said. She told officials she knew that sooner or later she would be caught and that recent Amtrak requirements relating to periodic mini-audits would someday expose her criminal conduct.

A formal audit by the Office of Inspector General for Amtrak was conducted after Reed's confession. The audit revealed that 570 tickets had been issued by Reed for which the money had not been subsequently remitted to Amtrak. An additional 19 tickets were unaccounted for. The audit established that the total amount of the theft to be $41,589, the criminal complaint said.

Last month, James House, another assistant conductor from Shelby's Amtrak station, pleaded guilty to theft from Amtrak of nearly $19,000 between April 1999 and February 2002. The U.S. Attorney's Office said House stole funds in the same manner as Reed.

House has not yet been sentenced, but faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years' supervised release.

Reed faces the same penalties at her sentencing hearing, which has been set for May 7.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said a warrant has been issued for a third former assistant conductor from Shelby, whose name has not been released. That person also is accused of stealing passenger fares, the office said.

Amtrak officials could not be reached for comment.

 
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