CHICAGO (CBS) — Imagine getting a letter from the city saying you owe $980 because you paid a ticket late more than nine years ago.
That’s a reality this week for one North Side family — so they came to CBS 2 trying to get some answers.
Dave Buchman said it all started when his daughter got on the Blue Line for what was supposed to be a simple train ride with her friends back in 2010.
His daughter, who was 18 at the time, accidentally fell asleep on the train.
“We were mad at her that night,” Buchman said. “She should not have done that. Much worse things could have happened.”
A police officer wrote her a $50 ticket after the train stopped at the O’Hare terminal. Buchman said it was so long ago, he doesn’t remember the exact citation.
They paid the ticket and Buckman said they never heard anything else about it–until this month, when he got the letter from the city saying his daughter now owes more than $980.
CBS 2 called the city’s Department of Finance and learned that, back in 2010, the ticket was paid late — 21 days after the hearing.
Buchman’s daughter’s debt jumped to the maximum penalty and court costs: $540 dollars. Since then, interest and collection fees have driven the total up over $900.
So will Buchman’s daughter pay up?
“She lives out of the country right now. So she may be an expatriate criminal for the rest of her life,” Buchman joked.
It’s been more than nine years since that Blue Line blunder.
We asked the city why the Buchmans were not notified of the added fees until this week and they said it’s because of “an administrative error.”
The city told CBS 2 in an email that they’d waive the additional fine and interest costs since the Buchmans were not properly notified.
In other words, after we called, Buchman’s daughter doesn’t owe a penny.
“I couldn’t even tell you if we knew there was a hearing date,” Buchman said. “We just know we got a ticket and we paid it off.”
A Department of Finance spokesperson said the city recently did “an internal cleanup” and sent out letters to several people with outstanding debt. She declined to say the exact number of cases.
The spokesperson said the city is now auditing the process and, if similar errors have occurred, they will address them.