Illinois Toll Collectors Accused of Stealing $25,000 in Fees
Maybe it's not so boring in there after all.
Any motorist who has passed a highway tollbooth, and who has never worked in one, probably has wondered what the job is like.
Well, maybe it's not profitable enough, for starters. As first reported by the Chicago Tribune, a group of a dozen Illinois toll workers stands accused of stealing some $25,000 from tolls over seven years.
The alleged scam is said to have worked this way: The collectors took cash from motorists, but reported the vehicles as any number of a class of cars exempt from tolls, including police cars. But when auditors took note of the high number of emergency vehicles, the Illinois Toll Highway Authority (ITHA) dispatched its inspector general to study the situation.
All of the 12 workers have either resigned or been terminated. As the Chicago Sun-Times reports, a total of $25,500 has been recovered. Three have already been hit with criminal charges, while authorities are preparing to do the same to a fourth toll worker.
The news of the fraud emerged from the latest ITHA Inspector General's report. But the alleged scheme is not the only recent hiccup for ITHA. According to a different Chicago Sun-Times report, Taxpayers United of America has filed suit against ITHA over recent fare increases. The hikes, which range from 35 to 45 cents at most toll plazas, will result in commuters spending, on average, more than $132 a year in tolls, according to the Sun-Times.
The fare increases are being put in place to help finance a 15-year capital improvement plan. In filing suit in Cook County Circuit Court, Taxpayers United says that ITHA was never supposed to have a "perpetual existence," and should have halted issuing new bonds now that old projects have already been paid for. The class-action is suit was filed on behalf of all commuters.
And as Thomson Reuters reports, the suit refers back to the act that created the authority in 1953, which required tollways be converted into freeways once all outstanding bonds were addressed.
The charges were dismissed out of hand by ITHA.
"We are confident," ITHA spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said, "that we followed the process as required under state laws,"
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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