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Toll Breakers: The biggest violators — and how they get away without paying

Posted at 10:52 PM, Nov 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-23 23:30:54-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Tolls are all over Richmond, but while most of us suck it up and pay we found some people are rolling through hundreds of times without spending a cent.

According to data from the Virginia Department of Transportation people ran Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority tolls 1,198,356 times since March of 2013.

“They’re basically saying screw you to the rest of us,” Michael Hagan, a driver who uses toll roads daily, said.

CBS 6’s Melissa Hipolit poured through traffic court records to find the people captured on surveillance cameras running tolls more often than anyone.

Among them, Latoya Carter from Richmond, who records show, owes RMTA more than $40,000 after running tolls nearly 400 times between April of 2011 and November of 2012.

Court records show she was still running them as recently as March of this year. Nobody came to the door when we visited her home to find out what’s going on.

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“That’s outrageous,” Hagan said.

Then there is Benitra Dickens from North Chesterfield. Court records show she ran tolls 245 times between July of 2013 and July of 2014, and owes RMTA nearly $60,000.

We found Dickens at her home, and asked her if she thinks it’s fair to run tolls. “If I’m going to work and it’s between gas and the toll, I’m going to put gas in my car,” Dickens said.

“To do it in a serial fashion suggests that there is something wrong in the entire process,” Hagan said.

So how are these drivers allowed to keep getting away with this?

Well, in both the Carter and Dickens cases, court records show neither had their first toll violation hearing until more than one-year-and-a-half after their first violation.

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In fact, VDOT said the oldest toll violation still waiting to be heard in court dates back to January of 2013.

“If you get away with it 200, 400 times, then that becomes an enforcement issue that nobody is doing anything about that to stop them from doing it,” Robin Chan, another Richmond driver, said.

We asked RMTA about the backlog, but they referred us to VDOT who processes its toll violation information.

VDOT in turn referred us back to RMTA and said all transactions belong to them.

Virginia code allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to put a hold on registration renewal for people who fail to pay their toll violations, but that is as harsh as it gets.

“They’re clearly taking advantage of the system.  Unfortunately, that system is letting them take advantage of it,” Hagan said.

CBS 6 asked RMTA repeatedly to answer questions about enforcing toll violations, but they continue to say they won’t comment.