Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Last updated: 6 hours ago

Former UBC student charged for allegedly reselling U-Passes

Kai Jacobson/The Ubyssey

A former UBC student has been charged with fraud in connection with allegedly buying U-Passes issued to other people and reselling them on Craigslist, according to Vancouver transit police.

The UBC alumna, 25-year-old Betty Sze Yu Wong, has been charged with two counts of fraud and is set to appear in court in Vancouver on Dec. 14.

According to Staff Sergeant Ken Schinkel, transit police have been monitoring online avenues where people try to resell U-Passes for some time.

“It’s one of the many things that we try to monitor, in regards to revenue strategy for TransLink,” said Schinkel. “Be aware that if you’re selling a U-Pass, there’s potential for criminal consequences should you be caught doing it.”

Schinkel said the transit police crime reduction unit has made a number of arrests over the past two years relating to various types of transit pass fraud. “Over and above the U-Passes, there’s ministry passes, and there’s monthly passes, and there’s people manufacturing fraudulent passes, so all of that stuff gets looked at,” he said.

UBC’s acting director of transportation planning, Margaret Eckenfelder, said that there was a suspicious spike in students asking for replacement U-Passes at the beginning of this summer, when the one-month passes first came into play. Students taking one- or two-month summer courses were only issued passes in the months when they had classes.

In response, UBC limited the number of replacement passes issued and told students they need to fill out a Campus Security form before replacing a lost pass. The new measures proved successful, according to Eckenfelder; passes are now being replaced less often than they were in the summer, even though roughly twice as many students are at UBC during the fall.

Eckenfelder said UBC takes U-Pass fraud very seriously, and she’s glad transit police do as well. “If I were a student and I actually saw criminal charges being laid against someone for something that I thought was not a big deal, I would think twice about doing it,” she said.

She also warned students that widespread U-Pass fraud could have the potential to endanger the U-Pass program.

“If it proved that a lot of passes were being misused and abused, [TransLink] might consider either cancelling the program — unlikely — or making the program a whole lot more complicated to administer.”

AMS VP External Kyle Warwick, who’s currently involved in negotiating an extension of the U-Pass contract from the student side, agreed that U-Pass fraud by UBC students can hurt negotiations to keep the pass available.

“Because the amount of money that’s lost because of this activity is quite significant,… it’s quite significant in terms of potentially affecting the program in a large way,” he said.

But like Eckenfelder, Warwick stressed that the overall level of pass fraud at UBC is down since this summer. He said he hopes that further enforcement from transit police will keep this trend going.

Schinkel said that the investigation connected with Wong’s arrest continues, and further charges may be pending for other individuals involved.

—This article was updated on November 4 to include comment from Margaret Eckenfelder and Kyle Warwick

  • Bileth

    Poor gal woo got caught. Supply and demand. People will continue selling.

    • Bileth

      who*

  • translinkhater

    maybe if translink didn’t try to rip everyone off in vancouver, there would be less of this shit going on.

  • dumb

    No shit. How can they charge $30 for a uPass, and over $100 for a non-student equivalent. Such BS

  • steve

    Wow, so many ignorant comments so far.

    1. “How can they charge $30 for a uPass, and over $100 for a non-student equivalent” – Because every student has to pay for it, regardless of their use. That’s what STUDENTS decided to do, and the vast majority continue to support that policy. When non-users sell their passes to transit users who otherwise would have had to purchase a full price pass, they are effectively stealing money from other transit users and taxpayers.

    2. “Supply and demand. People will continue selling” – Yeah, same with all stolen or fraudulently obtained property. The fact that the sale of illegally obtained goods will continue does not mean that it is moral or legal, or that it should be ignored by law enforcement.

    3.”maybe if translink didn’t try to rip everyone off in vancouver, there would be less of this shit going on” – Totally, fuck the completely non-profit and cash-starved Translink for getting you places at a price far below the cost of driving.

  • John

    Agree, agree, agree. Translink is bleeding money, and we’re on the verge of losing our uPass, or having the price go up, at the very least. They provide a great service, and I’d really like to see everyone selling their uPass–especially the morons doing so on Facebook–prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    • GatewayHater

      The reason why translink is bleeding money is because they are building a 10-lane tolled gateway to greenhouse gases over in Surrey.

  • Kbob

    Right, Steve, but what about the students that are forced into the scheme but never take transit? Many grad students don’t have a need for transportation to campus… I have taken the bus a handful of times in the past calendar year and it’s cost me $360.

    • B

      You’re the reason we get affordable transit. Thank you.

  • B

    It is idiotic that they no longer have the one-term, picture-on-pass version. Much harder to counterfeit, much more convenient.

    • TruthTella

      @034332cd54939e9c5f6825fc1204c57f:disqus but then TransLink can say that the fraud rate went up and their new multi-million dollar plan to add in faregates/compass cards sounds better to tax payers…

  • Frustrated Student

    Why doesn’t TransLink just allow U-Passes to be bought by students that went to a post-secondary school during the semester prior to the summer starting or for those who have signed up for courses after the summer semester? I think that’d be a win/win situation for everybody. I wouldn’t even have a problem with paying an extra fee for not taking any courses that current semester. I guess that’s why I’m not a “director of transportation planning”…