Video shows fired VIA driver repeatedly put fare money in his pocket

5 VIA operators dismissed last year after fare irregularity investigations

SAN ANTONIO – Onboard video obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders shows a now fired VIA Metropolitan Transit driver repeatedly accept cash from passengers intended to pay for fares and put it in his pocket.

The footage of driver Daniel Moreno, provided by VIA through an open records request, was used to fire him last August, following a fraud waste and abuse investigation, according to VIA records.

"I don't condone anybody doing that," said Juana Amaya, president of Amalgamated Transit Union 694, the union that represents more than half of VIA's hourly employees.

Moreno was also cited for violating the company's electronic device policy.

Footage from a camera positioned in front of the driver's street repeatedly shows Moreno being handed cash while passengers get on his bus downtown. He then folds it up and puts it in his front uniform shirt pocket, sometimes immediately, sometimes several minutes later, the footage shows.

A machine on Moreno's bus that accepts cash payments for fare was working when the incidents took place, the footage shows.

The on-duty theft was caught by an audit a few days after it took place in early August, according to Moreno's termination paperwork.

Moreno was one of five VIA drivers fired or forced to resign from July to October last year in connection with fare irregularities.

Here are the five VIA drivers fired or forced to resign after being investigated for fare irregularities.

**If you're having trouble viewing the graphic click here.


Another driver, Eddie Vargas Jr., was forced to resign in July after he was found giving 12 fare cards to a passenger in exchange for an energy drink and a snack bar, VIA records confirm.

The passenger later cashed in the cards for $24.60, records show.

A third driver, Brady Cortinas, was dismissed in September after an investigation determined that he was printing out fare cards to be cashed in by a woman he was living with.

The scheme was caught by VIA staff before the cards were cashed in, records show.

That same month, driver Mark Britan was forced to resign after getting caught trying to cash in fare cards while out of uniform, according to records.

A fifth driver, Steven Ruiz, was fired in October after being accused of diverting $669.31 in fare revenue, according to records.

The investigation determined that "Mr. Ruiz mastered the art of upselling at the farebox," using a system that included giving fare cards to passengers in exchange for cash that Ruiz kept.

VIA officials have declined, for several months, repeated requests for interviews from the Defenders related to driver discipline.

In a written statement, VIA said a new policy was implemented in November that no longer allows fare cards to be redeemed for cash.

"Since November, VIA has not received any reports of change card inconsistencies," the statement reads.

"While even one such incident is one too many, they are rare, even isolated. Of the few potential incidents investigated in calendar year 2017, only four were confirmed cases of inconsistencies involving change cards -- four out of nearly 40 million passenger trips VIA provided throughout the year."

According to VIA officials, the company is developing fare technology that will reduce the number of cash transactions, and last year, it introduced an app that lets customers purchase fares on their smartphone.

"They should have done that a long time ago," Amaya said.

About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.