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Investigators Find $30,000 in Coins They Say Fare Collector Stole

November 21, 1991

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Investigators found more than $30,000 worth of coins they said a bus-fare collector embezzled by circumventing the transit agency’s elaborate anti-theft scheme.

″We found sacks and sacks and sacks of coins,″ said Malcolm Vaughn, an investigator for the San Francisco district attorney’s office. ″They were all over the house.″

″They were locked in the closets of every bedroom and were locked up in a large desk in a hallway. They were also just lying around in satchels in the dining area and hidden in boxes and paper bags,″ Vaughn said.

Rex Esguerra, 39, was arrested Nov. 7 along with private security guard Rosendo Alandy, after $7,800 was found in Esguerra’s pickup truck. Officials searched his brother’s home in suburban Daly City on Friday and found the coins.

Public Utilities Commission investigators believe Esguerra, a Municipal Railway employee, stole the coins by rigging the device used to suck change out of fare boxes when buses pull into the transit agency’s yards each night.

The money is supposed to pass untouched through a vacuum hose into a coin sorter and vault enclosed in a locked shed at each yard.

Esguerra’s job was to go with a private security guard to each yard after the fare boxes were emptied, unlock the sheds, unhook the hoses, cart away the vaults and hook up empty ones for use the next day.

But when he hooked up the new vaults, Esguerra intentionally misaligned the hoses so coins would fall onto the floor to be scooped up the next night by him and the guard, said Harold Guetersloh, PUC fiscal officer.

Esguerra, a former San Francisco deputy sheriff, was released on bail. His brother, Ray, wasn’t home at the time of the search Friday and hasn’t been arrested, Vaughn said.

Vaughn said the money found Friday probably totaled between $30,000 and $32,000, but other officials said it was closer to $50,000. Municipal Railway collects $100,000 a day in coins.

Investigators recommended an audit of coin-handling procedures, said Tom Elzey, general manager of the Public Utilities Commission.

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