Woman sues LIRR after being detained

August 14, 2009 3:50:39 PM PDT
A woman is suing the Long Island Rail Road and MTA Police because she says she was wrongly accused of using a fake train ticket, patted down and detained for hours. Problem is the ticket wasn't fake.

"Nobody was interested in me explaining. They assumed I was guilty," Lara Tepper said.

Lara said she still can't believe it happened.

She had just boarded a LIRR train in Hicksville. The conductor asked to see her ticket, and then silence.

"When she didn't hand it back to me for a couple of seconds, I said is something wrong? She goes, 'This is fake.' I said, 'No. It's not,'" Tepper explained.

Lara says a second conductor agreed with the first conductor. When they arrived at Penn Station, Lara expected a supervisor would settle it. Instead, she was arrested.

"Nobody told me anything. The next thing I knew I was in a jail cell and being arrested," she said. "The worst part was being escorted through Penn Station by a cop crying. Penn Station's packed, and that was very embarrassing."

The fact is Lara's ticket was genuine. She had purchased it legitimately in Hicksville. For reasons railroad officials still cannot explain, it was printed on discontinued paper stock.

Lara spent more than three hours in a MTA holding cell before police realized their mistake.

She is now suing the LIRR for a half-million dollars.

"Why would you put someone in a holding cell, six-by-six? Why would you have 14 or 15 police officers meet her at Penn Station? It was outrageous behavior," Tepper's lawyer James Sawyer said.

"We regret the unfortunate incident that led to the detention of Ms.

Tepper," said railroad spokesman Joe Calderone. "As soon as it was determined that her ticket was not a forgery, she was released from police custody."

The LIRR is not disputing any of this. Officials say they have a serious problem with phony tickets. They are issuing new guidelines about how to spot them.


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