A Montgomery County man is the state's first toll violator to be sent to jail on a criminal charge of not paying tolls and fees, according to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
Howard W. Moore Jr., 47, of Colmar, was arraigned in a Lancaster County district court Thursday and sent to prison on $10,000 bail, which he posted.
Moore was charged May 15 with a third-degree felony of theft of services regarding more than $35,000 in unpaid tolls and fees accumulated between Jan. 2012 and June 2017, according to a criminal complaint.
Moore racked up 489 violations under two Pennsylvania license plates. A first and final notice was mailed for each violation, so Moore received 978 notices between Jan. 7, 2012, and June 24, 2017.
He was arraigned by District Judge Nancy Hamill regarding the violations at the turnpike's Reading Interchange in Denver. The interchange is in Hamill's district.
"First and foremost, we want to get our toll dollars," said turnpike spokeswoman Rosanne Placey. "It's a matter of equity. Most people are paying their tolls."
The turnpike started cracking down on toll payment violators after the state auditor general found in 2016 that the commission was writing off as much as $20 million a year in unpaid tolls. Last year the commission decided it would start criminal proceedings for motorists owing more than $2,000.
"In general terms, these cases reflect multiple contacts with the person asking them to pay their tolls, put together a payment plan," Placey said. "We don't bring the private criminal complaint forward without letting them know it's the next step."
Investigators tried to get in contact with Moore several times between Nov. 29, 2017, and April 9, 2018, according to the complaint. At one point Moore expressed interest in setting up a payment plan, but did not follow through.
Moore owes $15,822 in tolls and $19,560 in fees, according to the complaint.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 21 with Hamill.
A Mount Joy woman who racked up nearly $92,000 in unpaid tolls and fees has a plea hearing scheduled for July 17 in Dauphin County court, according to court documents.