Jitney Freeloader Gets Cuffs, Not Chips

Ambassador tickets were forgeries, police say

    An Amagansett man was arrested on April 24 and charged with forging Hampton Jitney tickets.
    Stratford Skalkos, 68, had just gotten off an Ambassador, one of the company’s luxury buses, when Southampton Town police arrested him at the Omni, the company transportation hub on County Road 39. The one-way fare on the Ambassador is $45.
    Mr. Skalkos has a 1999 conviction for felony grand larceny, according to records kept at the county jail, where he was held until yesterday. The records department at the jail could provide no other details about the previous conviction, for which he served a one-year term in county jail.
    Police said Mr. Skalkos had used at least 10 forged Jitney tickets before he was arrested. Employees on the bus became suspicious of the ticket he presented last week and alerted management, which contacted the police.
    Mr. Skalkos was said to be in possession of numerous forged Jitney tickets at the time of his arrest. Police said he was also in possession of several people’s “personal information.” They did not give specifics, but Southampton detectives are conducting an investigation as to whether Mr. Skalkos was using the information for criminal purposes.
    Court documents available online detail an embezzling scheme dating back to the 1980s in which a man with the same name, Stratford Skalkos, then working for Avon Products, used company funds to pay his own bills. As of noon yesterday, Southampton police would not say whether this was the same man. They have asked that anyone with knowledge of the case, or of past crimes involving Mr. Skalkos, call the Southampton Town Detective Bureau, 631-702 2230.
    Police would not speculate as to how Mr. Skalkos created the alleged forgeries, whether by himself on a home computer or with professional help. Forgery in the second degree is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
    He posted bail of $7,500 yesterday and was released. He has a date in Southampton Town Court on May 22.
    In other police news, Melvin C. Smith of East Hampton, who was charged with felony assault on April 10, was brought back to East Hampton Justice Court last Thursday, where Justice Lisa Rana set bail at $5,000, after the office of the County District Attorney agreed to reduce the charge against him to a misdemeanor. His attorney, Joseph Giannini, has maintained since the arrest that Mr. Smith is innocent.
    The attorney said that his client had testified before a grand jury in Riverhead for six hours in the days following his arrest, and that the grand jury then declined to indict him. That led to the reduction in the level of the charge. Mr. Giannini took exception to an article in this newspaper reporting that he believed race to be a factor in the arrest. He meant, he said, that race was a factor in the fight that occurred, not in the arrest. Mr. Smith is black; his alleged victim is white.
    Mr. Smith could not meet the $5,000 bail, and was returned to the county jail. He is due back in court today.