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Transit buff pleads guilty in train case

McCollum, who some believe may have a disorder that causes him to obsess about trains and buses, has served more than 10 years in prison during four different stints for burglary and forgery, among other transit-related offenses, according to state Department of Correctional Services records. His last stretch ended in April 2004, when he was paroled after three years, according to the records.In the current case, McCollum, 39, of 130 Columbia St., Manhattan, pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny after trying to take an M-7 locomotive, a new model from Bombardier, and several railcars from a Long Island Rail Road yard at 182-30 Liberty Ave. in June, the DA said. McCollum illegally entered the LIRR facility, posed as a safety consultant and asked Bombardier representatives how to operate the M-7, which had recently been delivered to the yard, DA Brown said. When his credentials were called into question, McCollum tried to leave the yard but was caught, the DA said. Those apprehending him found several stolen railroad keys, including one to operate the locomotive, Brown said.During last Thursday's hearing, McCollum waived his right to appeal, and the judge indicated he would later hand out a sentence of 1 1/2 to three years in prison when the 39-year-old returns to court March 28.McCollum was born in Jamaica and quickly developed an obsession with the city's transit system, according to a 2002 profile in Harper's Magazine. With his prodigious capacity for the minutiae of the network and his contagious fascination, he became a well-known figure among transit employees, some of whom asked him to pull shifts and facilitated his escapades by providing uniforms and equipment, according to the article. Despite being an imposter, he worked all over the city, directing traffic, helping to repair bridges, supervising track work and driving subway trains. While his activities never injured anyone, according to the article, he paid the consequences for his actions with several prison terms.Still, he kept returning to his life as a subway imposter. Some have explained his obsessive behavior with claims that he has Asperger's syndrome, which among other symptoms makes people fixated on a certain subject. The possibility of the condition came up during an earlier trial, but it could not be determined what role, if any, the suspected affliction has played in the current case. McCollum's lawyer, Stephen Jackson, did not return calls seeking comment, and the 39-year-old's family could not be reached.In The New York Post, however, Jackson said his client would receive treatment after his prison stint. He did not elaborate.While not commenting on the Asperger's supposition, Brown said McCollum's conviction was deserved."Justice has been done," he said.Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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