Archive for May, 2008

Miami Dade County Security Guard From Wackenhut Cought Stealing

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Miami Dade County Security Guard Steals From Metrorail Courtesy Fare Boxes

MIAMI — By Jeff Burnside NBC6 Investigative Reporter

A Miami Wackenhut security guard has been charged with stealing money from Miami-Dade County Metrorail passenger courtesy fare boxes.

Miami-Dade County’s Public Corruption Investigative Bureau said it secretly videotaped Fabriciano Baez repeatedly taking the taxpayers’ money.

Some people in positions of power within the county said they’re very angry.

“He ought to be pointing the finger at himself,” said Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess. “And looking at the mirror and feeling pretty disgusted with what he sees.”

Baez was a security guard hired to protect Metrorail riders and protect taxpayers’ property. There are hundreds of security guards working Metrorail, many of whom do good, honest work. But, police said, not Baez.

“He did have somewhat of a routine that he would go through to carry out this crime,” said Miami-Dade police Detective Juan Villalba.

A Miami-Dade County Transit Revenue Collections manager noticed Baez being recorded by security cameras in the pre-dawn hours, blocking the camera’s view at the change machines. Repair crews found the change machines jammed and fixed them.

Days later, Baez appeared again, standing against the change machines. Crews found the change machines jammed again and notified police.

The case report from the Miami-Dade Public Corruption Investigations Bureau described how detectives doing surveillance watched Baez show up for work early before trains even began running. Police surveillance video allegedly showed Baez methodically unfolding the passenger brochures, kneeling down by the cash box and dumping the money onto the brochure.

Police said he takes $30 to $175 each time. Police said he did it over three years at many train stations, which would mean taking thousands of taxpayer dollars.

“Sadly, you’re going to have people that try to cheat, that are going to try to steal, that are trying to make a quick buck the wrong way,” Burgess said. “It’s up to us to never, never like it, accept it or tolerate it.”

Police said Baez would jam something into the change machines that allow passengers to buy tokens and get change back. Taking those machines out of service meant more passengers had to use the user-friendly fare boxes installed as a courtesy to riders when change machines aren’t working. Security guards watch passengers put dollar bills into a slot, and then allow them through the turnstiles.

But, police said, Baez somehow rigged a special key to open those cash boxes.

“He found a way to get into the courtesy collection box,” Villalba said. “He would take that money out and keep that money for his own gain.”

Police said Baez confessed to everything once he realized he was caught on surveillance video.

“And it’s a shame,” Villalba said. “But that’s the way it is.”

Miami-Dade County is proposing to increase fares on Metrorail, but not due to theft.

Baez, whose lawyer did not return repeated calls made by NBC6 investigative reporter Jeff Burnside, is charged with grand theft and burglary. He will appear in court on June 2.