TTC collectors are accused of stealing, $2.75 at a time, as much as $20,000 in fares over the course of a year.

In the past week, three ticket collectors at some of the city’s busiest subway stops — Union, Queen and Eglinton, all on the Yonge line — have been charged with theft under $5,000, as well as several counts of failing to collect a fare.

Det. Rob Ermacora said the fact that these were three unconnected thefts should raise alarm bells for the TTC.

“How often were they doing this? We’re not (100 per cent) sure. It could have been every customer ... you do the math,” he said. “Is there a potential for a systemic problem, you never know, right?”

TTC officials were alerted to the alleged fraud by a concerned rider, who noticed that after paying, the collector simply waved the rider through, rather than sliding the fare back for the customer to put in the collection box — as protocol demands. The TTC special constables launched an investigation with the assistance of Toronto police using surveillance cameras — there are two pointed at every collection booth — and undercover officers.

Yesterday morning, 57-year-old Toilane Fountain was arrested at the Queen subway station. Last Wednesday, 65-year-old Anthony Alfano and Kiran Sachdev, 56, were charged. Sachdev made more than $125,000 last year, earning him a spot on the Ontario government’s “Sunshine List.” Each has been suspended without pay and if convicted will be fired, said one official.