Because of a typesetting error, an article in some editions of The Sun yesterday provided incomplete information about Mass Transit Administration workers who were involved in the theft of an estimated $500,000 in bus fares. Milton Tapp, 58, pleaded guilty on April 28 to one count of felony theft. Betty McKnight, 28, was found guilty of theft conspiracy. Tapp and McKnight face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
A Baltimore Circuit Court jury yesterday convicted two Mass Transit Administration employees who were involved in the theft of an estimated $500,000 from bus fare boxes.
The jury deliberated for about five hours before finding Arvelle C. Cole, 43, a "vault puller" responsible for removing fare boxes from the buses, and Bettie McKnight, 28, a security guard, guilty of theft conspiracy.
Cole was also convicted of felony theft.
A third defendant, Wanda Barnes, a 27-year-old security guard, was found not guilty of conspiracy and theft charges.
Tapp and McKnight face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, while Cole faces 30 years at sentencing on June 10.
The six-day trial before Judge Paul A. Smith focused heavily on videotaped surveillance taken at an MTA site, where the employees were alleged to have removed cash from fare boxes before depositing it in a security "drop zone."
Each fare box contained between $700 and $1,000. Between July 1989, when an MTA cash box skeleton key was stolen, and April 1991, about $500,000 was reported missing from daily bus receipts, court records said.
Between March 3 and April 19 of last year, cameras recorded activity at one of the drop sites, where about $27,000 was reported stolen in that period, prosecutors alleged.
Jurors watched about nine hours of videotapes, in which the convicted employees were seen behaving suspiciously at the drop site. In several of the films, the defendants tampered with the surveillance camera and put duct tape over the lens.
On a March 5 videotape, Cole and Tapp were actually seen "committing the crime of theft, by using what appears to be a stolen 'magnetic key' to open the cash boxes" and take hundreds of coins and bills, court records said.
But although prosecutors subpoenaed the defendants' bank account records, no evidence was ever found of what became of the stolen money, according to court testimony.
Defense attorneys disputed the amount of money stolen, saying that it was doubtful anyone would be able to steal bus fares amounting to $500,000.
MTA officials said their audits show that the figure is accurate, and that they have reorganized their security policies in light of the crimes. "We've revamped our whole system. It's been a year since this happened, so we've done a lot since then," said Dianna Rosborough, an MTA spokeswoman.