Former UTA fare collector charged with stealing more than $70k

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) A UTA bus in Downtown Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019.

A former Utah Transit Authority employee who processed fare boxes was charged Tuesday with stealing perhaps $71,000 in cash from fares, and about another $4,300 derived from recycling old tokens and fare boxes and pocketing the money.

The Salt Lake County district attorney’s office filed six felony charges for theft and misuse of public money against Jason Vaughn Guest for actions dating back to 2014.

The charges, based on an investigation by UTA Police, note that Guest has been fired. They say he once was the fare box services supervisor but was later demoted to a fare box processor on the night shift until he was terminated.

Charges say that a supervisor raised questions about why Guest did not clock out until 2:31 a.m. on Jan. 12, 2018, when his shift ended at 1 a.m. Guest said he was working on UTA goals.

But other workers alerted the supervisor that funds were likely short that night. The supervisor reviewed video that showed Guest in the vault by himself, which is against UTA rules. He placed equipment to block the camera’s view of what he did inside the cash receiver box.

He then placed it on a black gym chair and turned off the lights in the vault. A few minutes later, he turned the lights back on and exited with the bag.

The next week, court documents say Guest was confronted about his actions. When asked about missing money, he said, “No comment.” When shown the video footage, Guest again responded, “No comment.”

UTA police found videos of several other nights where Guest was also alone in the vault, blocked camera views of his actions, turned off lights for a few minutes, and exited with a bag.

Based on typical transactions and coin-to-bill rations, court documents say UTA figures about $71,000 from fares is missing between January 2017 and January 2018.

Workers also reported other problems with Guest dating back to 2014.

They say he was often seen taking old tokens and fare boxes away to be recycled. Court documents say UTA has no record of receiving any proceeds from that. They say a recycler has records showing it paid cash to Guest for those materials on 49 occasions, for a total of $4,336.

Additionally, one employee said that when he was new, he placed buckets of mutilated coins in Guest’s car at his direction when he was a supervisor.

Also once in 2014, another employee said he found a solid gold coin. Guest took it — and later turned in $300 to $400 to another employee in what he said were proceeds from selling it. Court documents say the coin may have been worth $2,000.