Dozens of NYC taxi drivers accused of charging double fare
Passengers in New York City's yellow taxis have been cheated by thousands of drivers who manipulated their meters to double the fare rate, officials said.
Published: 12:50AM BST 24 Sep 2010
A New York taxiPhoto: ALAMY
Fifty-nine of the worst alleged offenders were arrested on Wednesday, but officials said the criminal cases represented the tip of the iceberg, and that up to 22,000 drivers were believed to have deployed the fare trick before the city took steps to stop the practice in the spring.
Forty-five of the drivers arrested were charged with felony or scheming to defraud, while misdemeanour petty larceny cases have been lodged against another 14.
Six drivers reeled in more than $10,000 (£6,400) apiece by repeatedly bumping their meters up to a higher suburban rate when they actually were in the city, the Manhattan district attorney's office said.
One driver overcharged more than 5,100 times between November 2008 and June 2010, prosecutors said.
Unsuspecting passengers overpaid an average of about $5, officials said. But they said the overcharges added up to a sprawling scam among the cabs.
The investigation began after a passenger complained to the city about a fare that seemed to go up too fast last July.
The city Taxi & Limousine Commission concluded in May that almost 22,000 cabbies out of the city's roughly 48,000 yellow-cab drivers had improperly charged the double rate, which is supposed to apply only when taxis cross into suburban Westchester or Nassau counties. Passengers were overcharged 286,000 times, for a total of about $1.1 million, the TLC said.
The city's 13,000 taxis are now equipped with warning systems that alert passengers if the higher rate is being charged.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, an advocacy group, criticised the criminal cases, derived from data collected through taxi technology that includes GPS systems.
Drivers said some seeming overcharges were actually honest mistakes. Taxi Commissioner David Yassky said in May that cabbies who overcharged once or twice would not be punished.