July 8, 2008

Trucker Faces $1.2M in Fines in Alleged E-ZPass Fraud

By Kirk Swauger, Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

Jul. 8--BOSWELL -- An Indiana County trucker faces more than $1.2 million in fines after authorities said he routinely traveled the Pennsylvania Turnpike with a stolen E-ZPass.

State police charged Thomas Howard Wambold, 38, of Blairsville, with 1,241 counts of using the E-ZPass to evade tolls for 21/2 years -- between Sept. 23, 2005, and March 24.

Wambold was scheduled to be arraigned Monday before District Judge Susan Mankamyer of Boswell.

In addition to a $1,000 fine for each alleged violation, authorities contend Wambold owes $575,980 in full fares to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

"My life is over. Thanks," Wambold allegedly told state police Sgt. Anthony DeLuca.

DeLuca said he stopped Wambold's rig March 24 just east of the Allegheny Tunnel in Allegheny Township after he noticed a burned-out license plate light.

After initially telling DeLuca he was hauling two rolls of steel, Wambold admitted his tractor-trailer was carrying four rolls and was overweight, according to a court document. Police later determined the rig was more than 17 tons over the turnpike's 40-ton weight limit.

DeLuca said he also spotted hoses running from the top of the fuel tanks to steal diesel from other truckers.

"Yeah, it's expensive," Wambold allegedly told DeLuca.

Police said the E-ZPass was stolen from Allied Systems Ltd. of Buffalo, N.Y., which was going through bankruptcy three years ago.

DeLuca said the E-ZPass was attached to the truck's front bumper.

He said Wambold confessed it was stolen.

"Yeah, but we'll have to talk about that later, do you know what I mean?" Wambold told authorities.

Authorities said they seized log books, toll tickets, personal logs, computers and other documents April 28 while executing a search warrant on Wambold's hold.

Wambold also is charged with theft, access device fraud, receiving stolen property, possessing instruments of crime and exceeding the weight limit.

In a nutshell

How E-ZPass works: The system allows drivers to pass through toll booths without stopping.

A vehicle-mounted transponder sends a signal that is read by an antenna as system users drive past, allowing tolls to be deducted automatically from a prepaid account.


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