7 arrested for MARTA Breeze Card fraud

6:41 AM, Dec 30, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- MARTA police have arrested seven people they say sold counterfeit Breeze cards, a scheme that could have earned them a hefty profit before they were caught.

MARTA says the thieves spent $1 to buy the Breeze card, then reprogrammed the data on it to turn it into a 30-day pass.

They then sold it to riders for $40, a deep discount of the real price of $96. That meant the thieves got to pocket $39, and the buyers got a cheap ride.

Police are warning anyone who purchased the cards that even possession is a crime. They don't anticipate arresting anyone who bought a counterfeit cards, but they do need information on where it was purchased and a description of who sold it.

GALLERY | Suspects' mug shots 

Since December 10, police have arrested 22-year old Pierre Metteaux, 34-year old Jedadia Byrd, 45-year old Melvin Summers, 44-year old Christina Carney, 26-year old Stephanie Finger, 42-year old Brenda Small and 33-year old Michael Dallas.

Investigators say as they learn more about the groups distribution circle, more arrests will follow.

MARTA police chief Wanda Dunham says the cards were sold at MARTA stations and on Craigslist. But it was a suspicious buyer who purchased one at an area mall that contacted police.

"He knew that wasn't the right fare so he called us, asked us to check into it," said Dunham.

As they investigated, the agency's Revenue Department noticed in November, a large number of cards were sold at its Chamblee and Lenox stations for only a dollar. 

Police started reviewing surveillance video to create a list of suspects. 

MARTA won't say how many counterfeit cards the group sold, but says during the arrests it confiscated 400 fraudulent cards.

Had the thieves sold them, their $400 initial investment, would have earned them $16,000. 

MARTA says it's never had something like this happen before, but security expert Gregory Evans says MARTA needs to act fast, if wants to keep it from happening again. 

He says the hackers likely got away with their scheme using a simple card writer that costs just a few hundred dollars.

"The crazy part, the scary part about this? MARTA would have never known if some had not gone back and told them what was happening. That's it," said Evans.

Evans says the data on the card could be encrypted and an alert built into their software system.

"If I go to use this card somewhere and all the sudden there's $100 on this card, their system should have caught that and said hold up," Evans said.

MARTA won't say how it's improving the system, only that its working with the FBI.

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