Top cop nabs suspect in Golden Ears Bridge toll fraud
Bethany Lindsay, ctvbc.ca
Published Thursday, October 14, 2010 6:13PM PDT
The top cop in Langley, B.C., took matters into his own hands when he heard that a local resident had been charged for more than 90 crossings on the Golden Ears Bridge -- a structure he'd never driven across.
When Langley RCMP Supt. Derek Cooke learned about the billing error, he gathered data on all the times that the phony crossings were made in order to establish a pattern of travel.
"He has an inquisitive personality, but I would suggest most police do," Cpl. Holly Marks told ctvbc.ca.
"He thought that, with just a little bit of investigation, this could easily be solved."
With a little digging, Cooke discovered that whoever was crossing the bridge using a false plate number appeared to be a daily commuter.
"He was on his way to work," Marks said.
Cooke staked out the bridge during the morning rush, and within 10 minutes noticed a Chevrolet Cavalier bearing the counterfeit licence number making a crossing from Maple Ridge. When the car entered Langley, Cooke pulled it over and discovered that tiny changes had been made to the numbers and letters on the plate.
"He picked certain letters that are easily manipulated into other letters -- like changing a zero into an eight," Marks said.
The altered plate was seized on the spot, and the driver, a 50-year-old Maple Ridge man, received $414 in violation tickets for failing to display a front plate, altering a numbered plate and speeding.
Marks said criminal charges are unlikely against the driver.
The new toll bridge can cost up to $3.95 per crossing for a vehicle the size of a Cavalier. The wrongly billed Langley resident has destroyed the legitimate plates, and TransLink has been notified of the problem.
TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie told ctvbc.ca that the transit authority will be able to verify the suspected fraud using the toll company's video surveillance.
"That bill would clearly be torn up. It was clearly a form of identity theft," he said.
"It's a form of stealing that just drives up the costs for everyone else."
Hardie added that TransLink could turn over the investigation to transit police, who might recommend criminal charges.