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Over 4 years, UTA employee in charge of deposits stole $75k of public funds, police say

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Over 4 years, UTA employee in charge of deposits stole $75k of public funds, police say. (File photo: KUTV)

A former Utah Transit Authority employee is facing six felony charges, accused by UTA police of stealing tens of thousands of dollars of public money over at least a four-year span.

That includes at least $71,000 in public funds that went missing between January 2017 and January 2018.

According to court documents filed Tuesday, 37-year-old Jason Vaughn Guest began "a pattern of unlawful activity" sometime in late 2014, when Guest was a farebox revenue processor.

Court documents say:

Guest's duties included retrieving and processing bus farebox receipts and tokens, ensuring receipts and ticket vending machine cash receipts were picked up and deposited into UTA's bank account and maintaining the security of the cash room, also called the vault.

Guest's actions weren't noticed until January 12, 2018, when UTA supervisor Alex Hansen discovered Guest had clocked out at 2:31 a.m., despite his shift ending at 1:00 a.m.

After looking at surveillance footage, Hansen noticed Guest was in UTA's vault alone, which is against UTA policy which dictates no one is to access the cash receiver machine alone.

Once notified, UTA police began investigating by combing through surveillance footage of the nights Guest was working.

On at least five occasions in January 2018, police say Guest was observed going into the UTA vault alone, late at night.

Police say Guest would maneuver boxes and drawers in the vault to shield himself from surveillance cameras.

Police noticed Guest would go into the vault with a black gym bag and minutes later walk out with the bag, alone.

Each of those nights had spreadsheet shortages of more than $1,000 each night:

  • January 3, 2018 - $2,770.76 short
  • January 7, 2018 - $1,315.22 short
  • January 12, 2018 - $1,419.40 short
  • January 16, 2018 - $1,834.00 short
  • January 17, 2018 - no estimated shortage, but Guest was observed taking a "handful of bills" and put them in his pocket, police say

2News reached out to UTA spokesperson Carl Arky who said the agency has no official comment at this time but did say UTA leaders are asking:

What do we need to have in place so this doesn't happen in the future?

Arky did say that it's something that began under a "different regime" and new management hired within the last year or two are focused on how to prevent things like this from happening in the future.

Arky credited UTA police for doing their jobs and said that new executive director Carolyn Gonot is aware of the situation and is paying close attention as it develops.

The court documents state:

UTA maintains a spreadsheet that tracks the amounts of fares received in the form of coins and bills. While there is some variation, the daily ratio between coins and bills is fairly consistent. During the time of Guest's employment, however, the spreadsheet revealed extreme variance in the coin to bill ratio. Once Guest was placed on leave and later terminated, the extreme variance in the coin to bill ratio stopped. Analysis conducted by Hansen of the coin bill ratio between January 2017 and January 2018 revealed approximately $71,000 to be missing.

On January 22, 2018, Guest was confronted about the missing money, to which Guest responded: "no comment."

After being shown the surveillance footage, Guest once again said: "no comment.'

Utah Transit Authority Police say Guest began an "overarching pattern of [criminal] behavior" beginning in late 2014 when police say Guest would take and sell UTA property, almost always without a receipt.

Guest would take "buckets of coins" and would never return with a receipt of where those funds went. Those buckets contained foreign coins, bent American coins, and "slugs" (non-currency coin).

A new employee working under Guest's supervision in 2014 told police that Guest asked him to put two buckets of such coins into Guest's trunk.

The new employee, having previously worked for Loomis, a cash-handling company, estimated that each bucket contained approximately $1,000.

While that employee thought Guest's actions were odd, he did what he was told because he was a new employee, police say.

That employee also noticed Guest would take old metal fare boxes, and put them in his car to be taken to be recycled. In fact, Guest' car would be so weighted down in the rear that it would "drag on the ground," police say.

A different UTA employee noticed Guest, with is car weighted down, drive into Wasatch Metal Recycling. Guest would "randomly hand" that employee cash, saying it was from recycling. No receipts or documentation was ever provided.

UTA policy states that at least two people are required to take the metal to be recycled.

In June 2015, the "new employee" noticed a bag in Guest's trunk contained between $4,000 - $5,000 in cash.

Police say that the manager of Wasatch Metal Recycling says Guest recycled 11,326 pounds of metal in 51 separate transactions with a total value of $4,335.71.

Guest is facing five felony charges of misuse of public money, all third-degree felonies, and one count of "pattern of unlawful activity," a second-degree felony.

Guest has not been arrested but was issued a summons to appear in the Third District Court in Salt Lake City.