Police Arrest Man Running Downtown MetroCard Scam

By Julie Shapiro on October 31, 2011 7:40am | Updated on October 31, 2011 8:01am

Police arrested a man for jamming a MetroCard machine at the Cortlandt Street R station and selling subway swipes.
Police arrested a man for jamming a MetroCard machine at the Cortlandt Street R station and selling subway swipes.
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AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Police arrested a man last week for jamming a Downtown MetroCard machine and charging straphangers cash to get onto the subway.

Darrelle Lawrence, 52, stuffed cardboard into the MetroCard machine at the Cortlandt Street R train station on the morning of Oct. 25, preventing passengers from buying cards, cops said.

He then offered to swipe passengers into the subway system for $2 in cash, a 25-cent discount on the usual $2.25 fare, unaware that plainclothes NYPD officers were watching him, according to police.

"He tells people [the machine] is not working, but I'll get you in for $2," said NYPD Capt. Paul Rasa, who commands lower Manhattan's Transit District 2.

Police arrested Lawrence at about 12:30 p.m. at the station, across the street from the World Trade Center.

He was charged with petit larceny, theft of services and criminal trespass in the third degree and pleaded guilty to all charges the same day of his arrest, the Manhattan District Attorney's office said.

Rasa said Lawrence had previously been caught jamming MetroCard machines and had a total of 44 prior arrests, including charges of robbery and grand larceny.

Because of his history, Lawrence is now serving 60 days in jail, Rasa said.

"We got him," Rasa said.

Lawrence's lawyer did not immediately return a call for comment.

Lower Manhattan is frequently the target of MetroCard schemes like Lawrence's, Rasa said. 

"[Criminals] like this area because there's a lot of tourism," Rasa said. "[Tourists] don't know — they think this guy is helping them."

Vandals were also running a similar scam in Washington Heights earlier this year, officials there said.

Rasa said criminals who cook up a MetroCard swiping scheme usually buy a handful of unlimited cards and use them to let people in, making back their investment over the course of the day.

Sometimes the offenders also steal people's wallets as they pay the requested $2, though that did not happen in Lawrence's case last week, Rasa said.

"It causes a major inconvenience, and it costs the MTA thousands of dollars," Rasa said.

A train pulls into Cortlandt Street subway station on Mon., Sept. 6, 2011.
A train pulls into Cortlandt Street subway station on Mon., Sept. 6, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

"Just be aware of your surroundings."

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