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Cable car operator arrested for allegedly stealing fares

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A cable car operator is accused of pocketing some of the cash from passengers fares, according to local law enforcement. (Courtesy photo)
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San Francisco’s cable cars “fly halfway to the stars,” according to one famous song, but for one man they’re a flight straight to jail.

A cable car operator caught allegedly regularly pocketing fares was arrested Wednesday, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and The City consequently may consider no longer allowing riders to pay cash fares for the cable cars altogether.

Cable car operator Albert Williams, 61, of Napa County allegedly stole an unknown sum of money from the SFMTA by pocketing cash fare payments over an unknown period of time, and will be charged with felony misappropriation of public money and embezzlement, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

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When asked to verify the amount or period of time, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office said, “This is an ongoing investigation.”

SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said in a statement, “The vast majority of the men and women of the Cable Car Division are exceptional at what they do, are hard-working, and are honest people.”

But, he added, “As soon as we learned of improper activity, we referred the matter to our law enforcement partners, were able to identify a bad actor, and are moving now to ensure he no longer represents this agency and city on our iconic cable cars.”

Reiskin said the SFMTA will “immediately enhance” management and oversight of cash fare transactions and will explore long-term options, which may include eventually removing cash as an on-board payment option for the entire cable car system.

The case was investigated by the San Francisco Police Department’s Muni Task Force, according to the District Attorney’s Office. The police found that during his shifts, Williams used “various schemes” to hide how much cash he collected, according to the District Attorney’s Office, which allowed him to pocket hundreds of dollars in cash a month from cable car riders.

“Employees entrusted with collecting public money are expected to carry out their responsibilities with integrity,” said District Attorney George Gascón in a statement. “Stealing money from public agencies, whatever the amount, will be met with consequences.”

This isn’t the first time operators have been under fire for allegedly stealing cable car fares. In 2006 then-Mayor Gavin Newsom accused operators of pocketing cash, and two years before that, operators went on strike to protest SFMTA’s handling of fare-theft allegations.

Although an arrest has been made this remains an ongoing investigation. Investigators are asking anyone with information on this case to contact the San Francisco Police anonymously at (415) 575-4444 or text-a-tip to TIP411 with SFPD at the start of the message.

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