A former clerical worker in the Erie County Social Services Department pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing more than $300,000 worth of NFTA Metro Bus passes that a prosecutor said probably financed her recent Las Vegas vacations.
Sandra Haslam Bonner, 51, of Wyoming Avenue, was allowed to remain free without bail after she pleaded guilty as charged to second-degree grand larceny.
She was accused of carrying out a two-year scheme to steal and then sell the passes on the street. The scheme was uncovered while she vacationed again in Las Vegas last February.
State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang told Bonner she faces a six-month jail term when sentenced March 13. Bonner then signed a confession of judgment, committing her to repay the $309,815 worth of passes she admitted stealing.
John C. Doscher, chief of the Erie County district attorney's White-Collar Crime Bureau, told the judge Bonner's plea and the confession of judgment strengthen the county's case should its insurance carriers not honor the county's employee theft policy.
On Nov. 20, Bonner's cousin, Lynette Edwards, 47, of Donovan Drive, was placed on probation for three years and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service on her guilty plea to a stolen property charge in the case.
The cousins were indicted last May by a grand jury that charged them with selling on the street bus passes that were supposed to be given free to people on welfare. Edwards was indicted on a charge of selling the stolen bus passes for Bonner and getting a cut of the money.
Bonner was fired last spring from her job as a Department of Social Services clerical employee.
Doscher said the passes, though free to people on welfare, can be purchased by the general public at area stores for between $56 and $66, depending on the travel zones a person wants covered.