UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - A Prince George's County Revenue Authority employee is charged with writing fraudulent tickets and now WTOP is learning more about why it happened and the employee's past legal problems.
Last month, WTOP reported that Antoine Budd was investigated after 10 people complained about erroneous tickets for parking in a fire lane -- each at $200 a pop. After an investigation, Budd was indicted on counts of perjury, forgery and counterfeiting, issuing of false documents and misconduct in office. He was fired.
But, this isn't Budd's first run-in with the law, which is bringing to question how he got his job in the first place.
Since 1995, Budd has been a defendant in 12 civil, criminal or traffic cases. Two charges were for theft. In the last 10 years, Budd has been charged with speeding, driving on a suspended license and second-degree assault. Prosecutors later dropped the assault charge.
Prince George's County Revenue Authority Director Peter Shapiro points out the theft charges were in the 90s when Budd was in his early 20s, and no other red flags popped up in his background check. But Shapiro admits there wasn't a criminal background check.
"Our background checks include personal references and former employers. These were both positive for Mr. Budd. There's a spot on the application where we ask, 'Have you ever been convicted of a felony?' He answered no. His driving record had no points and our insurance carrier vetted him and there were no issues there either," Shapiro says.
"We are vigilant about our self-policing policies and as a result of this case, we will conduct a more stringent background check and that may now include a criminal background check."
Shapiro also warned that it's important to distinguish between what Budd was charged with and what Budd was actually convicted of.
In Montgomery County, people applying to be a parking enforcement officer also don't receive a criminal background check. However, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation tells WTOP there haven't been any problems with officers writing fraudulent tickets in more than 15 years.
A spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) tells WTOP that their agency vets all parking enforcement candidates with the Metropolitan Police Department. The department did not say if the vetting includes a criminal background check. Candidates must also take a drug test before being hired. DPW writes about 1.5 million tickets in the District, or about 85 percent of all tickets.
Budd was hired as a parking enforcement officer on Sept. 13, 2010, under former County Executive Jack Johnson. His route included Largo, Clinton and Upper Marlboro, Md.
According to records obtained WTOP, Budd wrote 4,188 parking tickets in 2011. But in 2012, Budd only wrote 1,879 tickets, even though he worked the same amount of hours both years.
Shapiro says the drop caught the agency's attention.
"Essentially he was working the same beat and there was a substantial reduction. It was a factor, not the only factor, but a factor in our concerns over his performance," he says.
"This substantial drop in production led to our discussions with him about large blocks of unaccounted for time."
While Shapiro wouldn't confirm when they identified and discussed this issue with Budd, it's clear that the agency was investigating the matter when the allegations of falsified tickets arose.
Budd was charged with 41 counts in June. At the time, a source with knowledge of the case told WTOP that Budd thought his supervisors weren't happy with his performance and that he might lose his job.
Budd was fired after an investigation into the tickets, nine of which were issued between March 25 and April 5. All 10 were $200 fines for parking in a fire emergency lane, one of the higher-costing tickets. They were suspicious because he attached pictures to each that were completely black.
"I have no idea why he picked that particular infraction for each ticket. We do not have any quota system. We do not reward ticket writers based on the volume of tickets or the amount of the fine on each ticket, so he had no incentive to pick [parking in a fire emergency lane]," Shapiro says.
John Erzen, spokesman for the Prince George's County State's Attorney, tells WTOP that prosecutors don't know of any other fraudulent tickets.
If you think you're the victim of a bogus speed camera, red-light camera or parking ticket in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, WTOP may be able to help you cut the red tape. Email us your case - along with documentation - to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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