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Black Market Selling Illegal Muni Transfer Tickets

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) -- Street sellers run a brisk business at commuter hubs all over San Francisco, a black market that sells Muni tickets for half the regular $2 fare.

The busiest hotspot: 16th and Mission streets, where from morning to night, 7 days a week, you can buy as many as you want.

This is how it's supposed to work: Passengers get on a bus, pay $2 and the bus driver will tear off a dated transfer ticket. The transfers are only good for an hour and a half. But the illegal ones sold on the street are whole, so passengers can ride the bus all day long for a dollar.

The sellers are more than happy to show how to trick the bus driver into not noticing, showing our hidden cameras how to fold the tickets as if they were torn off a book.

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And just in case a Muni inspector or cop comes on the bus one illegal street seller told CBS 5, "You have to go a little bit in the back, and when you see the people coming in just cut it."

Where do the tickets come from? CBS 5 wanted to ask some of the street sellers, but they wouldn't talk to us.

In the past, it's been an inside job: A police sting last summer led to the arrest of a Muni mechanic Edmund King. He claims he got the tickets from the garbage, but Muni said he obtained them by virtue of his employment, and made tens of thousands of dollars selling them.

"One of the officers spotted him with these late night transfers that he had, folded into a newspaper," said Lt. Troy Dangerfield, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department.

Despite last year's arrest, Dangerfield said the problem is still rampant. "This has been going on unfortunately for years," he said.

CBS 5 showed Dangerfield the tickets we got. He said some are real, while others may be counterfeit, such as two we got with the same serial number. He said it was possible that some are being stolen, then copied.

What is Muni doing about it? "We are trying to crack down on it as much as possible," said Paul Rose, spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. But he admits the weekly losses run into the thousands of dollars.

Rose said Muni pays the police department $12 million a year to patrol hotspots and do sting operations, and it paid off with the arrests last year. But CBS 5 found the sales this year are still going strong.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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