Oakland transportation worker charged with embezzlement

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

A longtime North Oakland Transportation Authority worker has been charged in allegedly spending thousands of dollars in unauthorized fuel card purchases over more than two years, Lake Orion police said.

The department had been investigating since late February, when officers were contacted by leaders of the Lake Orion-based authority that provides transportation to seniors, the disabled and low-income residents in Oakland County. An internal audit of employees’ fuel credit cards found discrepancies, investigators said in a statement.

“Fuel credit cards are assigned to a specific vehicle and authorized at the pump by a code system unique to each driver, who may only use the cards once per day,” the release read. “LOPD investigators discovered that there was another card in use, not assigned to a vehicle, that has been used 313 times for unauthorized during a period starting in August 2014 to February 2017 for a total of $8,677.00 in fuel charges.”

A probe traced that card to senior full-time dispatcher Andrea Vrsek, who used it as a back-up in case a driver’s failed and had access to a list of all the codes, police allege. Officials learned all the unauthorized fill-ups involved codes from off-duty drivers, and most of those purchases were outside the transportation authority’s service area.

Investigators eventually found a surveillance video showing one of those buys Jan. 23 at a Speedway gas station on South Lapeer Road in Orion Township.

The 35-year-old Novi resident was arrested Thursday. When confronted with the evidence, Vrsek reportedly told the investigator: “You did your job well,” police said.

She was arraigned before 52/3 District Court Magistrate Nicholas Camargo on one count of embezzlement – agent or trustee, which is a five-year felony.

Vrsek has since been released on a $20,000 bond. A probable cause conference is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. May 8.

She has been suspended from the transportation authority pending the probe and will be fired if convicted, director Lynn Gustafson said Thursday night. Meanwhile, the company has “since instituted new policies and procedures to secure and monitor future gas card use,” officials said in a statement.