Lackluster strategies for identifying fraud in the MTA’s Access-A-Ride program allowed potential criminal activity to persist unchecked, the MTA Inspector General said.
An audit by the IG’s office released Monday found Access-A-Ride contractor Curb Mobility, which provides on-demand rides to New Yorkers with disabilities, failed to enact specific fraud-detection strategies requested by MTA officials in 2018.
The revelation comes days after an Access-A-Ride driver was criminally charged in Queens for bilking the MTA out of nearly $70,000 worth of fake rides.
“Outsourcing fraud controls to a contractor, and not even verifying that they are being completed, is a bad idea,” IG Carolyn Pokorny said in a statement. “It is imperative that the MTA… ensure that fraud is detected, and deterred, before taxpayers and riders foot the bill.”
City-licensed Access-A-Ride driver James Laverty, 72, was arraigned Friday on charges that he submitted claims for bogus rides that had been requested through Curb’s mobile app, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said.
Laverty, of Freeport, falsely claimed to have picked up the same woman 661 times between September 2020 and February 2021, charging the MTA $69,890 for the trips.
In reality, the vehicle was empty, prosecutors said. He faces up to 15 years behind bars for grand larceny, identity theft and falsifying business records, the DA said.
Transit officials only asked Curb if it had conducted requested anti-fraud analyses in early, after the IG’s office began the investigation into Laverty, the audit said — allowing potential fraud to go unchecked.
“Significantly more cases could have been developed if Paratransit and Curb had performed all planned analyses to detect patterns needing further review,” the audit said. “In 2020, Curb referred just 2 cases to Paratransit for further review. However, we found that the number could have been significantly higher if Curb had performed the other analyses… Through 2020, the program’s fraud controls as implemented did not provide sufficient ability to detect many cases of possible fraud.”
IG investigators also dinged the MTA itself “did not have sufficient resources” to conduct its own quality checks of Curb’s data.
“Paratransit did not ensure that Curb had implemented all fraud detection methods the agency had required it to perform. As a result, the program’s anti-fraud efforts did not detect some additional potential cases of fraud,” the audit said.
Curb currently handles 95 percent of Access-A-Ride “e-hail” trips, according to the IG — but its contract with the MTA terminates at the end of this year. The MTA designated the company a “non-responsible vendor” earlier this year over procurement ethics violations, barring it from taking on state contracts for five years.
A rep for Curb said the company had not seen the complete IG report.
“Since 2017, Curb has continuously and proactively worked with the MTA to identify and develop anti-fraud functions. Unfortunately, several of these verbal and written recommendations have not been acted on, and in some cases ignored by the MTA,” the company said in statement. “In one case, Curb implemented an anti-fraud measure that would limit the number of rides any individual could have with the same driver in the span of a couple of days. One month later the MTA requested it be deactivated. Curb takes its anti-fraud responsibilities seriously and will continue to work with the MTA to provide the best possible service.”
The IG recommended the MTA put fraud detection requirements in any future e-hail contracts.
“New York City Transit’s Access-A-Ride Paratransit system is a lifeline for New Yorkers with disabilities or health conditions that prevent them from using buses or subways. Stealing money used to provide this vital service is despicable,” MTA Chief Accessibility Officer Quemuel Arroyo said in a statement. “We expect the vendors that we contract with to have the most current and the most stringent mechanisms in place to ensure that the system is run honestly and efficiently. The MTA is cooperating with the District Attorney to ensure anyone responsible is held accountable under the law.”