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Two Accused Of Counterfeiting SF Muni Transfer Tickets

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Following a CBS 5 investigation, two suspects are charged with orchestrating a counterfeiting operation that was costing the SFMTA thousands of dollars a week.

With every illegal transfer ticket sold on the street, money is stripped from San Francisco's Muni system. And it's a problem that has plagued Muni for years.

A CBS 5 investigation found some of those tickets had the same serial number and appeared to be counterfeit.

"You brought this to our attention about the counterfeit transfers that you had stumbled upon and so they looked into it and fortunately they were able to make an arrest," said San Francisco Police Lieutenant Troy Dangerfield.

Police say two suspects, Art Mio and Marcos Aviles, were caught counterfeiting transfer tickets in a home on the 3100 block of 18th street. He believes they may be part of a larger crime ring.

"I mean all the paraphernalia was there, a single laptop, there was cutting devices so they can cut them properly, there was even computer programs that can help you print things, they had the special paper that was needed," Dangerfield said.

Police confiscated 287 counterfeit tickets, sold on the street for a dollar apiece. They estimate the counterfeit operation was raking in about $500 a day.

"That's a big loss to Muni and a big loss to city revenues," he said.

So what is Muni doing about it? CBS 5 took that question to Reginald Mason, head of security for the SFMTA. "We have undercover officers that are monitoring. We have the Muni response team. These folks are doing a great job," Mason said.

But how could Muni say it's doing a great job when this continues to be a problem for such a long period of time? "It's not something that comes up today and we make an arrest tomorrow," said Mason. "It's an ongoing thing. This particular investigation with these two individuals, it was a three month process."

To avoid the problem of counterfeiting altogether, Mason said he has been pushing to get rid of paper transfers and switch to the Clipper Card, but it's been an uphill battle. "The public here is so used to having transfers this would be a change in the way they do business. And with change come problems and issues, as a lot of people don't want to change," he said.

Still Mason is hopeful the arrests will make a difference. "We have some momentum there that we can say hey this has been happening this is a problem; let's look at a different option."

The crackdown on counterfeiting is also targeting Muni riders. If you knowingly buy and use a fake transfer, you could be fined heavily. The fines range from $75 for the first offense, $250 for the second and $500 for the third.

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

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