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Transit aficionado pleads guilty to Jamaica joyride

Darius McCollum is charged in April with stealing a bus from New Jersey and driving it to Queens in 2010. McCollum pleaded guilty earlier this week. Photo by Ellis Kaplan
TimesLedger Newspapers

The cult figure who has inspired curiosity with his unusual — and criminal — fixation on mass transit could spend up to five years minting license plates after he pleaded guilty earlier this week to joyriding in a large bus in Jamaica, the district attorney said.

Darius McCollum, who has been arrested more than 20 times for impersonating transit employees, pleaded guilty Monday to stealing a bus from a depot in Hoboken, N.J., in 2010 and embarking on an inter-city bus tour before police picked him up in southeast Queens, DA Richard Brown said.

“Today’s guilty plea is an acknowledgement by the defendant that he had no right to be in possession of the bus which he was driving at the time he was arrested,” the borough’s top prosecutor said. “The defendant is not a licensed bus driver and this case could have been tragic if he had struck and killed a pedestrian or another motorist.”

Police spotted McCollum around 9 a.m. Aug. 31 driving a 2003 Trailways bus on Hillside Avenue that had disappeared while undergoing maintenance work at a bus depot across the Hudson River.

It was not the first time McCollum’s strange obsession with mass transit has run him afoul of the law.

McCollum, 48, is said to have memorized the city’s subway system as a child, and is thought to know more about transit than anyone at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

He was first arrested in 1981 at the age of 15 when he commandeered an E train for an unauthorized trip to the World Trade Center.

He has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, which supporters have used to explain his fixation.

He was arrested at the Long Island Rail Road station in Jamaica in 2008 wearing an orange vest and hard hat claiming he was a safety consultant. Authorities found him with various stolen railroad keys, including one that operated an M-7 locomotive.

McCollum has been held in prison since he was arrested in 2010 for driving the bus.

He pleaded guilty Monday to one count of third-degree criminal possession of stolen property. Justice Barry Kron indicated he would sentence him to 2 1/2 to five years in jail July 17.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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