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New Yorker arrested 29 times for transit crimes sentenced in bus theft

By Victoria Cavaliere

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City man arrested nearly 30 times over 30 years for posing as a subway worker or bus driver, at times piloting trains full of unsuspecting commuters, was sentenced to up to 5 years in prison on Thursday for his latest joyride.

Darius McCollum, who has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, will seek treatment for his transit obsession upon his release from prison, under a plea deal with prosecutors, his lawyer said.

McCollum, 48, pleaded guilty this month to taking a Trailways bus in 2010 from a depot in Hoboken, New Jersey, and driving it to the city's Queens borough, apparently en route to John F. Kennedy International Airport, the Queens District Attorney's office said.

It was McCollum's 29th arrest since the age of 15.

He faced up to 15 years behind bars for the Trailways theft but as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, he was sentenced to 2-1/2 to 5 years in prison.

McCollum has been in jail for nearly 3 years and could face a parole board within weeks since he already has served the minimum of his sentence, his attorney Sally Butler said.

"The goal was to get him in front of a parole board as soon as possible, to get him out of the system and to get him some help," she said.

McCollum's obsession with mass transit, specifically with the city's subway system, started early in his life when he hid in a train after being violently attacked at school, she said.

"It was his home. It's was an environment where he feels safe," she said.

In 1981, McCollum was arrested for the first time after taking the controls of an E train and driving it six stops, apparently without any complaints from the conductor or passengers.

Over the next two decades, McCollum was arrested for a series of transit crimes, including dressing like a Metropolitan Transportation Authority employee and attempting - and at times succeeding - to drive trains and repair vehicles.

He also posed as a member of a crew working on tracks.

"He's done this way more times than he's been arrested," his attorney said.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Kevin Gray and Richard Chang)

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